Watch CBS News

Federal Prosecutors To Seek Early 2021 Trial For Ald. Edward Burke's Corruption Case

by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Federal prosecutors plan to ask a judge to schedule an early 2021 trial date for Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who is facing racketeering, bribery, and extortion charges.

In a Thursday filing in federal court, prosecutors revealed they have turned over a vast amount of evidence so far, but are waiting until six months before trial before turning over some materials to attorneys for Burke and his co-defendants -- his ward assistant, Peter Andrews, and Chinese businessman Charles Cui.

So far, prosecutors have turned over more than 100 discs, more than 44,000 pages of documents, "a variety of additional electronic discovery, and several boxes of hard copy material."

Prosecutors say the evidence was collected from various city departments, Burke's ward office and City Hall offices, and subpoenas issued to others; and that it includes "voluminous recordings."

Defense attorneys are still waiting for the prosecution to hand over additional evidence, which they believe is largely wiretap recordings. Prosecutors said they have agreed to turn that remaining evidence over six months before trial, but the defense wants it sooner.

Meantime, both sides are due back in court on Tuesday for a status hearing, and prosecutors said they will ask a judge to schedule a trial date in early 2021.

Burke is charged with one count of racketeering, two counts of federal program bribery, two counts of attempted extortion, one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, and eight counts of using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity.

Federal prosecutors have accused Burke of using his position to shake down firms and individuals seeking city business in exchange for private legal work for his law firm.

The indictment accuses Burke of demanding the owners of a Burger King franchise hire his private law firm for property tax work in exchange for his support for his help obtaining remodeling permits.

Burke also is accused of squeezing the developers of the Old Main Post Office for private legal work in exchange for a tax subsidy for the development project.

Prosecutors also say Burke squeezed Cui into hiring the alderman's private law firm in exchange for the Burke's support for $2 million in tax subsidies and a sign permit for a real estate project.

Cui is charged with one count of federal program bribery, three counts of using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity, and one count of making a false statement to the FBI.

Andrews, a top Burke aide, is accused of helping Burke in the Burger King scheme, and is charged with  one count of attempted extortion, one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, two counts of using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity, and one count of making a false statement to the FBI.

Burke, Cui, and Andrews all have pleaded not guilty.

Burke stepped down as powerful chairman of the City Council Finance Committee after he was first charged in the case last January, but was later re-elected as alderman. He has ignored calls from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and others to resign.

The case also revealed for the first time that fellow Ald. Danny Solis (25th) had been cooperating with federal prosecutors and agreed to wear a wire as an informant. Solis resigned as Zoning Committee chairman in January 2019 after news of his cooperation with the federal probe broke. He did not run for re-election and has not been charged with a crime.

Burke was the first of several Chicago area politicians swept up in corruption cases in the past year.

Illinois State Sen. Thomas Cullerton was indicted last August on embezzlement charges accusing him of collecting more than $250,000 in salary and benefits from a local Teamsters office, even though he did little or no work for the labor union. His trial has been scheduled for this August.

Illinois State Rep. Luis Arroyo was arrested last October, accused of bribing an Illinois state senator in return for the senator's support of sweepstakes-related legislation that would benefit one of Arroyo's lobbying clients. Arroyo has since resigned from the Illinois House, and recent court filings suggest he could be working on a plea deal.

Earlier this week, former Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to taking more than $250,000 in bribes, including $70,000 in exchange for acting as a "protector" for red light camera company SafeSpeed. Sandoval resigned last year, months after the feds raided his home and offices.

Sandoval is cooperating with an ongoing federal corruption probe, and according to a search warrant from the Sandoval raids, the feds are casting a very wide net in their investigation. The warrant revealed federal investigators were seeking evidence related to a vast array of subjects -- including SafeSpeed; ComEd; Cook County Commissioner and McCook Village President Jeff Tobolski; businessman Michael Vondra; video gambling company Gold Rush Gaming; several unnamed Illinois Department of Transportation officials; and several asphalt, concrete, and construction companies. No one else named in the warrants has been charged with a crime.

Federal agents also raided the office Ald. Carrie Austin's 34th Ward office last June, seizing printed documents as well as computers and electronic files. She has not been charged with a crime.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.