By JIM SUHR
Associated Press Writer
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill.- The city's former police chief was sentenced Monday to more than two years in federal prison for attempting to shield a politically connected businessman from a criminal probe.Ronald Matthews, 56, had faced up to five years behind bars for conspiracy to obstruct justice, attempted obstruction of justice and perjury before a grand jury. He was convicted Dec. 21.
Matthews professed his innocence and said he would appeal. But he also told the judge he preferred to begin his prison term immediately.
"I'd rather just go ahead and be done with it," he said. Federal marshals obliged and led him away.
The case stems from a traffic stop during which Ayoub "Dave" Qattoum, an auxiliary policeman and businessman, was found with a .38-caliber handgun. Under federal law, Qattoum was not entitled to have a gun as a convicted felon.
Prosecutors described Qattoum as well-connected, quick to give loans or kickbacks to local elected officials to curry favor as the owner of a convenience store.
Authorities accused Matthews of commandeering the local investigation of Qattoum's arrest after the Jordanian national expressed fear that U.S. immigration officials had learned of his legal troubles and might deport him.
Prosecutors also alleged Matthews refused to submit the case to local prosecutors for review, and hid from grand jurors and immigration officials the gun seized from Qattoum, falsely claiming the weapon was lost or stolen. Matthews resigned after being indicted in 2005.
Qattoum, 41, was sentenced in August to more than a year in prison. He faces deportation after serving his sentence.