Home News Prosecutors seek a decade in prison for ex-Ald. Edward Burke

Prosecutors seek a decade in prison for ex-Ald. Edward Burke

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Federal prosecutors are asking for 10 years in prison for former Chicago Ald. Edward Burke, arguing in a lengthy filing late Monday that the 80-year-old Democratic machine stalwart was “steeped in corruption” and abused his office for personal gain for years.

“Again and again, Burke used his significant political power to solicit and receive bribes from entities with business before the City of Chicago—all so he could obtain legal business for his private law firm and financially benefit his close personal associates,” prosecutors wrote in their 51-page filing. “To this day, Burke has expressed no remorse for his crimes; indeed, he continues to deny he did a single thing wrong.”

The sentence requested by the U.S. attorney’s office would mean that Burke could very well die in prison. But it’s a punishment prosecutors say is warranted, given the “mountain” of evidence in the case — including hundreds of undercover recordings — that captured Burke in his own words and make it “obvious that Burke was no novice when it came to corruption.”

“Burke operated as a seasoned professional when it came to identifying new potential clients for his law firm and exploiting his power and position in order to secure their business,” prosecutors wrote.

Lawyers for Burke were due to make their own sentencing recommendation Monday, but nothing had been filed as of 11 p.m.

Burke, 80, was convicted in December of racketeering conspiracy, federal program bribery, attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion and using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity.

The jury found the longtime leader of the powerful City Council Finance Committee guilty of a series of schemes to use his considerable City Hall clout to try and win business from developers for his private property tax law firm.

Among them were efforts to woo the New York-based developers of the massive, $600 million renovation of the Old Post Office, extorting the Texas owners of a Burger King who were seeking to renovate a restaurant in Burke’s 14th Ward, and intervening on behalf of Charles Cui, a developer in Portage Park who wanted help getting a pole sign approved for a new Binny’s Beverage Depot location.

Burke was also found guilty of attempted extortion for threatening to hold up a fee increase for the Field Museum because he was angry the museum had ignored an internship application from his goddaughter.

The jury acquitted Burke on one count of conspiracy to commit extortion related to the Burger King project.

Kendall is scheduled to sentence him June 24.

Also convicted was Cui, whose sentencing is set for next month.

Meanwhile, the jury acquitted Burke’s longtime 14th Ward aide, Peter Andrews, of all counts alleging he helped Burke pressure the Burger King owners into hiring Burke’s law firm by shutting down their restaurant renovation.

Burke’s high-profile, six-week trial featured some 38 witnesses and more than 100 secretly recorded videos and wiretapped recordings, offering a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of Chicago’s top political power brokers at work.

At the heart of the case were dozens of wiretapped phone calls and secretly recorded meetings made by Daniel Solis, the former 25th Ward alderman who turned FBI mole after being confronted in 2016 with his own wrongdoing.

In closing arguments, prosecutors put up on large video screens a series of now-notorious statements made by Burke on the recordings. Among them: “The cash register has not rung yet,” “They can go (expletive) themselves,” and “Did we land the tuna?”

Several letters in support of Burke were made public last month, including one from former mayoral candidate Paul Vallas who wrote Burke’s “professional impact on Chicago is a great legacy.”

In their filing on Monday, however, prosecutors quoted the late U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who in sentencing former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to 14 years in prison, said he was responsible for corruption that tore the fabric of the state.

Prosecutors said Burke did similar damage, and that a lengthy sentence was necessary to deter others.

“Burke no longer holds public office. But it is apparent from the character letters received so far that there are those who lurk in the bowels of city government and walk in its corridors of power who are still strong allies of Burke,” the prosecution filing stated. “It would be naïve to think that there is anything stopping Burke, the consummate political insider with his coterie of misguided friends and well-wishers, from engaging in the same type of conduct in conjunction with public officials in the future.”

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