Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Family Secrets mob trial with Sun-Times reporter Steve Warmbir

Bill Hanhardt's last stand

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Former top Chicago cop William Hanhardt is making a last ditch to get out of prison early.

On Dec. 15, he will turn 79.

By then, he may learn his fate.

While the Hanhardt case isn't the usual focus of this blog, recent filings in the case of the mobbed-up former Chicago chief of detectives provide some fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses in the days before Hanhardt pleaded guilty to taking part in a multimillion-dollar jewelry theft ring.

Hanhardt wants the judge to find he wasn't in his right mind when he pleaded guilty in October 2001 and that his well known attorneys at the time, including a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Thomas Sullivan, were incompetent for saying Hanhardt was mentally competent to plead guilty.

Prosecutors argue Hanhardt seemed just fine when he pleaded. He was coherent during his plea and asked questions and voiced objections, the feds say.

Hanhardt's claim of mental illness isn't a new issue.

Just days before his guilty plea, Hanhardt tried to kill himself by downing a fistful of pills, including 20 OxyContin, a powerful painkiller, according to his medical records.

Hanhardt was in the depths of depression. The day before his suicide attempt, his laywer, Sullivan, told him it would be "a blood bath" if he went to trial and the feds would "go after" his family, according to Hanhardt's court filing.

Going to trial would cost Hanhardt hundreds of thousands of dollars and could result in his wife losing the family home, his attorneys told him.

If Hanhardt were convicted - and the FBI had built a massive case against him - he knew he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Hanhardt worried he might not even make it to court.

Cops and mobsters wanted him dead.

FBI agents told his lawyers that Chicago police officers were planning to kill Hanhardt, as were two Chicago mobsters, according to his court filing.

The FBI offered to put him in witness protection, but Hanhardt refused, repeatedly.

Added to that stress were serious health problems.

For years, Hanhardt had been a heavy drinker.

A battle with cancer resulted in surgeons removing both his testicles.

In an eloquent court filing, Hanhardt's attorney, Jeffrey Steinback, is asking the judge in the case to vacate Hanhardt's plea or at least modify a ruling the judge made — that Hanhardt engaged in a violent crime when he robbed a jeweler — so Hanhardt can be moved to a prison that's closer to his family, especially his ailing, elderly wife.

A fascinating fact about Hanhardt is that to this day, even after pleading guilty to a serious crime, police officers and private citizens still praise him.

Former Chicago police detective Charles Adamson wrote that as Hanhardt "rose through the ranks of the police department, he demonstrated time and time again not only his abilities as a commanding officer, but that he was a man of consuming compassion."

Many people who know Hanhardt accept he was part of the theft ring.

But they point to his good deeds as a cop and question if he was bored in retirement and turned to crime for a little excietment. They wonder if he wasn't simply a product of his times.

Prosecutors and investigators who worked on the Hanhardt case argue he was in the Outfit's pocket for decades.

In the Family Secrets trial, Hanhardt's name came up during the testimony of Robert "Bobby the Beak" Siegel, a burglar and killer for the mob, who told jurors his mob boss in the 1960s bribed Hanhardt, so Volpe's South Side numbers racket could thrive.

Hanhardt got $1,000 to $1,200 a month in bribes and a new car every two years, Siegel recalled.

He is not expected to be released from prison until 2012.

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Hanhardt is likely the most corrupt police officer in U.S. law enforcement history.

Scum, keep him in until he's in a pine box.

To the man who does not know him yet calls him scum, I say this He is doing his time to pay society back. Jail is no fun. Maybe your thoughts are scummy.


He should have thought about what he could lose and how he would destroy his family before he even considered going corrupt. keep him locked up and throw away the key.

As far as his ailing wife, she had to know what was going on underneath her roof so I don't know why she should be considered for anything.

Pigs will be Pigs.

If you think a cop receiving $1200/mo for supplying information about traveling jewel salesman to the mob is the most corrupt in history, your opinion of cops is WAY overblown!
Hanhardt was a great cop. He saved many lives and put a lot of very bad criminals behind bars or in their grave - I'm talking murderers, rapists...people who really hurt other people. When you see so much evil in your life, could a little cash for insurance covered theft seem so bad? Sure, we'd like to think of all great cops as saints - but they're not...saints would get killed in this tough world in about 5 minutes.
So, lay off the ol' cop. Without guys like him, guys who'd get down in the festering mud with the criminals, Chi-town would have been an even more dangerous and filthy place to live.

STEVE WARMBIR RESPONDS: I'll note that Hanhardt pleaded guilty in federal court to being part of a jewelry theft ring that targeted jewelers across the country. While the Chicago Sun-Times' articles at the time of Hanhardt's guilty plea noted that Hanhardt performed many heroic acts, they also noted that prosecutors made a case he had been in the mob's pocket for much of his career. It also came out at his sentencing that he acted as a go-between in a mob hit. He also tipped off a top mob leader to a pending federal investigation, prosecutors say.

So to characterize his behavior as simply taking payoffs from the mob to provide information on jewelers is inaccurate and incomplete.

Hanhardt remains the highest ranking Chicago police officer to go to prison.

Hanhardt was a hero,but as we all do mistakes,he made some too.He worked in dangerous profession in Chigago,and made the city safer place to live.Set him free,he made his time allready.

There are a lot of "tax collectors" ready and willing to express their "blog-pinions" -- Mr. Warmbir included. What "debt to society" is being re-paid by the continued incarceration of an 80 year-old man?

Bill Hanhardt is a hero in my neck of the woods. This fine man was born with the gifts of bravery, intelligence, cunning and leadership. His incarceration serves only the superficial and sanctimonious interests of the ignorantly righteous. It is well past the time to release this man from prison and allow him to spend his dwindling days with his ailing wife. The true crime in all of this is the politically motivated, heavy-handed crusade to see “justice” used as a death sentence.

Bill, oberserver and Aarno are exactly right. For a man with the experience of Hanhardt to sit in a cell is no payment to society. If Hanhardt is too serve us all as penance for his sins, he should be training young detectives out on the streets where he can actually make a difference. His jail sentence is truly a waste. But as we all know, that's what politicians know how to do best...waste our resources and grandstand for attention.

This bum is probably responsible for my Uncle losing everything from a well planned and timed Jewelry heist of his wares while unloading his case at a hotel he was checking into. And these posters want pity and for him to be "training new detectives"? Must be other bums just like him making those kinds of statements-----guess there is honor among thieves afterall. Go take your blue code of cowardice silence on your next visit to Oxford or wherever this bum will spend his last days. My uncle lost everything from that heist and I know this bum had something to do with it, yet he cries for his ailing wife living high on the hog in Deerfield. They cut off his pension right?

hanhardt was a cellie of mine, during my nine year sentence.
(for a crime that the feds had no phyiscal evidence). and i'll tell you. he is one of the most honorable poeple i've ever met... he just wants to be left alone to live his life, and so i say to you, why don't you let him alone, and mind your own dirty laundry before minding someone elses.........

You are honestly blaming this man for the heist of your uncle's jewelry? You're acting as if this man is a part of every jewelry heist simply because he was charged with being involved in a few. My guess is that you have never met Bill Hanhardt nor ever heard of anything he has done until this. Hanhardt made bad decisions, but he was still one of the finest cops Chicago has ever seen. Also, it is known that in any jewelry heist related to Hanhardt involved jewelry that was insured, so it was mainly insurance companies that were taking the hit. Do your research before you comment.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Warmbir published on November 29, 2007 1:59 PM.

And you thought Chicago was crazy was the previous entry in this blog.

"A legend" retires is the next entry in this blog.

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