USA vs. Edward M. Burke

Edward M. Burke was the longest-serving member of Chicago’s City Council. But in 2019, a grand jury accused him of using his Council seat to steer business to his private law firm. He is charged with racketeering, bribery and conspiracy to commit extortion.

“They ran an undercover investigation on Mr. Burke for 30 months — with the star witness being Danny Solis — and they didn’t have the decency to bring him to you,” said attorney Joseph Duffy.
‘You have heard about a pattern of unlawful activity,’ prosecutor Diane MacArthur said. ‘Standing at the center of that steady drumbeat of unlawful activity is this man, Edward Burke.’
Ed Burke’s defense attorneys made good on their promise to call Solis to testify, forcing him out into the open nearly five years after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed his cooperation with the feds in January 2019.
Burke’s defense team has promised to summon former Ald. Danny Solis to the witness stand — finally giving Burke the chance to confront the man who famously turned on him while wearing an FBI wire.
Prosecutors in Burke’s corruption trial say the call in 2017 demonstrated the former alderman’s “modus operandi.”
City Hall bureaucracy took center stage in former Ald. Ed Burke’s corruption trial Thursday as one of the finer disputed points in the case came to a head.
Restaurant employee is pressed why he didn’t initially tell FBI agents about the former alderperson’s apparent interest in getting private business from Burger King owners.
“We were going to talk about the real estate tax representation, and you were going to have somebody get in touch with me so we can expedite your permits,” Burke was recorded saying during a call with an executive.
An executive for Shoukat Dhanani, which owned hundred of Burger King locations, said the Klafter & Burke firm “seemed very disorganized.”
Burke tried, but failed, to leverage his political clout to strong-arm business for his tax appeals firm out of the New York business that redeveloped the Old Post Office.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall denied a request for mistrial over a remark about the ‘Chicago way of doing business’ being ‘very corrupt.’ That allowed prosecutors to proceed with recordings of Burke and witness testimony.
When Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane MacArthur explained that she did not expect Amtrak executive Ray Lang to make the comment, U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall quickly asked, ‘What were you expecting him to say?’
Special Agent Ryan McDonald’s testimony came nearly five years to the day after the FBI raided former Chicago Ald. Edward M. Burke’s offices Nov. 29, 2018.
COVID-19 is arguably one reason it took so long for the feds to bring ex-Ald. Ed Burke to trial in the first place. The FBI raided his offices five years ago this week. Criminal charges followed in 2019, but the pandemic helped scuttle plans to begin the trial in 2021.
“I was relieved when they said it before they got in the house that I’m not in trouble,” Shoukat Dhanani testified. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have let them in.”
Prosecutors called Shoukat Dhanani to the witness stand and played secretly recorded calls as they began showing jurors evidence of a second scheme outlined in Burke’s 2019 indictment.
Prosecutors say the former City Council dean was upset he had failed to land an internship at the Field Museum for the daughter of a close friend.
Prosecutors kicked off their case with Elmhurst University political science professor Constance Mixon, who began to explain Chicago city government to the jury.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall, prosecutors and defense attorneys have seated 12 jurors at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse who will hear evidence that was used in 2019 to level criminal charges against Burke in a push against old-school, Chicago-style corruption.
Burke’s trial was expected to last six weeks, but the slow jury selection and COVID-19 delay threaten to push the case deep into the holiday season.
The comments will kick off the highly anticipated case dating back five years. It upended Chicago’s mayoral campaign in 2019 — first through a raid of Burke’s offices, criminal charges, and the disclosure that Ald. Danny Solis spent two years recording Burke.
Potential jurors in Burke’s case have been spending time in the ceremonial courtroom of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, which is right across the hall from the public corruption display. Potential jurors could be seen walking through the hallway Tuesday.
Residents of the ward aren’t optimistic Burke’s trial — or even former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s federal trial next year — will clean up Chicago corruption.
Burke wore a gray suit and tie with an American flag pin on his lapel. From time to time he could be seen reviewing paperwork, including questionnaires filled out by the potential jurors. But he mostly seemed to be taking it all in.