Former city official testifies in trial

March 17, 2009 5:24:34 PM PDT
Al Sanchez, who was on the witness stand for over three hours, is accused of rigging city hiring for members of the Hispanic Democratic Organization.The trial wrapped up on Tuesday afternoon.

Sanchez gave a very innocent view of that organization, saying that members became part of the Hispanic Democratic Organization because they cared about their community.

Sanchez was born 61 years ago in what he says was a rented, rodent-infested home on the West Side. Eventually he moved to the city's Southeast Side where he was the first in his family to graduate from high school.

After graduation, Sanchez says he was rejected from getting a couple of jobs at steel mills because he was Hispanic.

Race was the focus of Sanchez's defense at his federal trial. The former Streets and Sanitation commissioner said he first became involved in city politics only as a way to expand opportunities for Hispanics. He worked for Mayor Daley's campaign in 1989.

Sanchez was the leader of the powerful Hispanic Democratic Organization. Prosecutors say Sanchez rewarded hard-working members of the group with jobs and promotions at City Hall.

Defense attorney Tom Breen asked Sanchez, "Who controlled city hiring when you were commissioner?" Sanchez answered, "I.G.A." Then he asked, "Did you have the ultimate hiring decision?" He said, "No, I.G.A." I.G.A. was the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Prosecutors say sham interviews were conducted and forms falsified, all in an effort to hire H.D.O. members. Sanchez testified that he had nothing to do with interviews or job applications. Sanchez said the only thing he did do was make recommendations for hiring, and Sanchez says he did that based on qualifications and diversity.

Sanchez is also on trial with Aaron Duvalier, Sanchez's former right-hand man, who is charged with just one count of perjury. He also took the stand on Tuesday. The defense rested, so closing arguments will begin Wednesday morning.