Chicago alderman pleads guilty to corruption

February 1, 2010 4:21:52 PM PST
Chicago Alderman Ike Carothers pleaded guilty to corruption charges Monday and will serve 28 months in prison.In addition, Carothers will testify for the government in two other cases.

Following his court appearance, Carothers resigned from his City Council post and submitted a resignation letter to Mayor Daley.

Twenty seven years ago, West Side alderman William Carothers went to prison in a public corruption case. Soon his son, Ike, will do the same. But before he goes, Ike Carothers will be a cooperating witness for the government in its cases against two developers.

When and if Ike Carothers testifies, it will be as a former Chicago alderman because when he entered his guilty plea Monday, Carothers officially forfeited his job as a public servant.

Ike Carothers was an alderman for a decade. He rose to become chairman of the City Council's police and fire committee, but now he's going to prison for 28 months.

"People engage in activities they regret. I know this is something Ike regrets deeply. That's why he's entered a guilty plea. And that's he's agreed to work with the government in an attempt to make things right," said Jeff Steinback, Carothers' attorney.

Carothers entered a guilty plea Monday morning to charges that he led an effort to re-zone a largely empty West Side manufacturing area, Galewood Yards, into new condos. In return, real estate developer Calvin Boender, according to the plea deal, paid for $40,000 in improvements including painting, new windows and central air conditioning for the alderman's home starting in 2004.

But the plea agreement includes more. Carothers admits taking over $15,000 in cash from a cooperating witness three years ago, then became uncomfortable and gave it back.

The same year, he admits taking at least $40,000 in cash from indicted developer Wally Aiyash, and that he failed to report that on his income tax returns. And twice, the government says Carothers arranged for park permits for two carnivals and each time received a $10,000 pay-off.

"It's an emotional time. We respect our alderman. We have a good alderman," said Brenda Smith, Carothers' chief of staff.

The 29th ward is now without an alderman until the mayor appoints a replacement. Carothers won't start his prison term until after he's testified for the government in the cases against Boender and Aiyash.

Carothers actually started his cooperation with the government in 2008. As an alderman, he wore a wire, even a hidden video tape recorder.

Attorneys for Boender have subpoenaed retired Alderman Bill Banks, and nine other alderman who were part of the controversial Galewood Yards vote to testify at Boender's trial.

The city has filed a motion in federal court saying that the subpoenaed alderman and the retired banks shouldn't be compelled to testify because they're protected by legislative immunity.

Carothers submitted his letter of resignation to the mayor Monday afternoon saying, "it has indeed been a pleasure serving with you and other members of the Chicago City Council. Please keep me and my family in your prayers."

Carothers' West Side office staff will continue to run things in the 29th Ward until the mayor appoints a replacement.

Beginning in 2008, Carothers wore a wire for the government, and caught an alleged pay-off from one of the developers on a hidden camera. Other aldermen wonder what else Carothers might have recorded.

Ten current or former aldermen have been subpoenaed by lawyers for developer Calvin Boender to perhaps testify at his trial in March.