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Jury finds ex-Alderman Ed Burke guilty on all counts but one

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(The Center Square) – A jury found former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke guilty of all counts expect one in his corruption case Thursday, adding to a string of high-profile guilty verdicts brought home by federal prosecutors this year.

Burke was indicted in 2019 on 19 counts of racketeering, extortion and bribery. Prosecutors accused the longtime Alderman of using his power to steer business to his private law practice, which specializes in property tax appeals. Burke served as the head of the city’s powerful Finance Committee before he stepped down in May.

Burke, 79, was convicted of racketeering, bribery, attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion and using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity. He was acquitted on one count of conspiracy to commit extortion related to the redevelopment of a Burger King.

A co-defendant, real estate developer Charles Cui, 52, of Lake Forest, was found guilty on five counts: corruptly offering or agreeing to give things of value; using an interstate facility to promote unlawful activity; and knowingly making a false statement to the FBI. A third defendant, Peter Andrews, 74, of Chicago, an aide in Burke’s 14th Ward office, was acquitted of all charges against him.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall set a sentencing hearing for Burke on June 19, 2024. Cui’s sentencing hearing was set for June 17, 2024.

Prosecutors accused Burke of corruptly soliciting work for his private law firm from companies involved in redevelopment projects at the Old Main Post Office in downtown Chicago and a Burger King in Burke’s ward on the Southwest Side. It also alleges that he corruptly attempted to assist a business owner with a development on the Northwest Side shortly after the business owner told Burke that he would engage Burke’s law firm. The firm, Klafter & Burke, specialized in seeking property tax reductions for corporate clients.

The charges also alleged that Burke threatened to oppose a Chicago museum’s admission fee increase because the museum failed to respond to Burke’s inquiry about an internship at the museum for a child of Burke’s friend.

Racketeering, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to commit extortion are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Federal program bribery is punishable by up to ten years. Using interstate commerce to promote unlawful activity and making a false statement to the FBI are each punishable by up to five years.

“The jury’s verdict is a clear warning to elected officials: Illinois residents will not put up with government corruption, and we are willing to stand up and hold public officials accountable,” Better Government Association President David Greising said in a statement. “While Burke’s corruption is another sad chapter in Chicago’s history, the jury’s action also is a step forward and an affirmative statement that the bad old days are coming to an end.”

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said justice was served.

“Elected officials are responsible for serving with honesty and integrity, with a moral responsibility to their constituents to uphold and abide by the law,” he said in a statement. “In the case that they fail to do so, it is imperative that they are held accountable. That is what the jury decided today.”House Republican Leader Tony McCombie said Springfield needs to do more.“Illinois has weak ethics laws and House Republicans have been pushing for significant reforms for years,” she said in a statement. “Democrats’ complacency with the status quo continues to cheat and take advantage of Illinois families by the very government who says it is there to protect them. House Republicans have filed common sense proposals and are more than willing to have bipartisan discussions to close loopholes and enhance penalties for those who violate the public’s trust.”

Prosecutors put on evidence at the six-week trial that revealed that Burke solicited work for his private law firm from companies involved in redevelopment projects at the Old Main Post Office in downtown Chicago and a Burger King restaurant on the city’s Southwest Side. Burke also corruptly attempted to assist Cui with a development on the city’s Northwest Side shortly after Cui told Burke that he would hire Burke’s private law firm, Klafter & Burke, for legal work.Prosecutors also argued that Burke threatened to oppose an admission fee increase at the Field Museum in Chicago because the museum failed to respond to Burke’s inquiry about obtaining an internship at the museum for a child of Burke’s friend.Cui was convicted of steering the private legal work to Burke in an effort to influence and reward him in connection with permitting and tax increment financing for Cui’s development.Burke served in the City Council from 1969 until earlier this year.

Burke is married to former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke.

In May, federal prosecutors secured guilty verdicts in the case of the ComEd 4, four former executives and lobbyists at the state’s largest utility convicted of a nine-year scheme to bride former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

In August, a federal jury found Madigan’s former chief of staff guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice charges, convicting him of lying to a grand jury to protect his former boss. Tim Mapes, 68, served for years under Madigan as the clerk of the Illinois House and as Madigan’s chief of staff.

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