Dozens of letters have been submitted to U.S. District Judge Stephen Clark encouraging leniency in sentencing the disgraced politician Lewis Reed, who pleaded federal guilty to bribery charges in August. Those putting pen to paper to support the former president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen include a former interim police chief, Reed's former political staffers, small business owners, and a who's-who of notable individuals with business at City Hall over the past decade.
Though Reed served as the president of the Board of Aldermen for 15 years, only one former alder contributed a letter. No current ones did.
Lawrence O'Toole, who served as interim chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department during the notorious “kettling” incident that saw protesters rounded up from the city streets, wrote that he has spent his career "in support of the rule of law.” He said he worked with Reed extensively and "was shocked by the revelations of his wrongdoing; it simply did not conform to the individual I knew."
Jeff Rainford, who served as chief of staff for Francis Slay and later went on to be a lobbyist, wrote that in his dealings with Reed, "Lewis always acted ethically" and was mindful about not mixing policy with fundraising.
Rainford was one of the key individuals working behind the scenes to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport, a plan Reed supported and which Rainford cites in his letter as an example of Reed's efforts to "improve the lives of his constituents."
Many of the letters refer to Reed's accepting of bribes from businessman Mohammed Almuttan, in which photos revealed him taking cash with seemingly practiced ease, as an aberration in an otherwise honest political career.
John "Johnny" Daus, who for years ran Johnny's restaurant in Soulard, stressed that Reed responded to Daus' concerns more readily than Daus' own alderman. "He NEVER asked me for anything in return," Daus wrote.
"Mr. Reed is not a thief," wrote Michael Powers, who worked as Reed's legislative director for three years. "He's not someone who funded his time in politics on pay-to-play transactions."
Tom Shepard, Reed's former chief of staff, wrote that Reed's "sole purpose for choosing public service was to improve our city."
David Sweeney, former chief legal counsel for the Board of Aldermen and an attorney at Lewis Rice who now works to help developers with tax increment financing deals at City Hall, wrote, "In all my interactions with Lewis both professionally and personally, I never questioned his moral compass. The current circumstances do not lead me to believe that this is in any way reflective of his long distinguished service to the citizens of St. Louis."
Gary Bess, a former parks director in both the city and county, has been the subject of numerous Tony Messenger columns detailing "questionable financial dealings" involving a city halfway house and large salaries paid out to Bess' wife and brother-in-law.
On behalf of Reed, Bess wrote, "When Lewis took office, he made sure his staff at city hall maintained an ‘open door’ policy, so that anyone with problems, complaints, or questions (regardless of the nature) were welcome to come and share their concerns."
The lone former alder to write in support of Reed was Kathy Hanrahan, who represented the city's 23rd Ward.
"I never once questioned his sincerity or integrity," she wrote.
Though many of the letters refer to the crime to which Reed has pleaded guilty as being out of character, few offer any explanation as to the aberration.
A letter from former 26th Ward Committeewoman Patricia Moss is an exception. "What is his weakness?" she wrote to Judge Clark. "Lewis is too trusting. He wants to help everyone. He treats people the way he wants to be treated."
Reed, along with former Aldermen Jeffery Boyd and John Collins-Muhammad, is set to be sentenced December 6.
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