Federal prosecutors say Ed Burke deserves 10 years in prison for corruption

Federal prosecutors say former Ald. Edward M. Burke should be sentenced to 10 years in prison this month for illegally using his considerable influence over powerful developers and threatening one of Chicago’s cultural icons for his own benefit.

It would mark one of the toughest public corruption sentences handed down by a city federal court in the last decade. Burke turned 80 a week after his conviction last December.

“For years, he abused and exploited his office to further his own personal and financial interests,” prosecutors wrote in a 51-page court memo on Monday. “Burke has time and again used his considerable political power to solicit and accept bribes from entities doing business before the city of Chicago – all so that he can obtain legal business for his private law firm.”

Meanwhile, Burke’s lawyers are asking the judge not to sentence him to prison, which they say “would be a strong and just expression of mercy for an 80-year-old man at the end of his life who has sacrificed so much of himself for so many years. “

Among those who have written letters in support of Burke is Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th), former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, Reverend Michael Pfleger, former First Lady of Illinois Jayne Carr Thompson and former Chicago Police Chief. Garry McCarthy.

It had been more than five years since the feds raided Burke’s office before finally charging him with racketeering. Now Chicago’s longest-serving council member is two weeks away from his June 24 sentencing hearing.

This may be one of the most closely watched hearings at the Federal Court in Dirksen in years.

If U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall were to grant the feds’ request, it wouldn’t be the first 10-year prison sentence she’d handed down for corruption. After a corruption trial in 2016, she gave ten years to former City Hall employee John Bills.

Prosecutors noted that Burke no longer holds public office, but “it was clear from the letters received to date” that Burke’s strong allies still “lurk in the bowels of city government and walk the corridors of power.”

“It would be naive to believe that anything would prevent Burke, a consummate political pundit and his coterie of misguided friends and supporters, from engaging in the same conduct in the future with public officials,” the prosecutor’s memo reads. “For this reason, a sentence that clearly deters Burke is necessary to protect the public from his future criminal acts.”

Prosecutors said they took Burke’s age into account when recommending the “low end” of federal sentencing guidelines, but ultimately “Burke used his age to his advantage to help him commit the crime” when he was 70 years old.

“Burke exuded strength, confidence and freedom in his daily public life. “Burke certainly did not give the impression of an elderly man in poor health,” prosecutors wrote. “To the contrary, Burke knew what he was doing, aggressively pursued his desires and juggled his demanding schedule by committing multiple simultaneous crimes.”

In December, a federal jury found Burke guilty on 13 charges that included racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion. The case against him involved plans for the Field Museum, the Old Post Office on the Eisenhower Expressway, a Burger King in Burke’s 14th Ward and Binny’s Beverage Depot on the Northwest Side.

“As Edward Burke would have it, a senior public official at the height of his power in the city of Chicago can solicit bribes, extort bribes from the less privileged, and shake down local businesses for years, denying his guilt and showing no remorse.” and then, once convicted, “happily retire to the comfort of your own home,” prosecutors wrote Monday.

But they added: “Burke is completely wrong.”

Prosecutors are expected to reveal on Monday how much time they think Burke should serve. His defenders are also expected to make public “a large number of letters” they claim to have received on his behalf.

Four letters written by Vallas and others in the Burke case were made public Tuesday at the request of the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Public Media. Burke is scheduled to be sentenced on June 24 after being convicted of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion.

Burke’s legal retirement marks a change from earlier this month, when the state deemed him qualified to practice law despite the federal conviction.

Appellate Judge Jesse Reyes called on his Democratic primary opponent to say whether she recused herself when the court didn’t suspend Burke’s license.

The former councilman’s wife, Anne Burke, served as chief justice of the state’s highest court for three years, with her term ending in 2022.

A federal jury found former Chicago Ald. Burke pleaded guilty in December to racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion.

A Chicago City Council icon turned felon is entitled to more than $540,000 paid into the city’s pension fund and nearly $2.5 million in campaign fund payouts.

One feels sympathy and respect for a man who mentored many more of his peers than he bullied during his record-breaking 54-year reign. Ald. Ray Lopez said that “Burke’s fingerprints are all over much of Chicago.” To consider this the final act of a remarkable career is a tragedy.

The jury of nine women and three men heard testimony from 38 witnesses over 16 days of testimony, during which prosecutors presented their case that Burke “accepted bribes” and “blackmailed.”