CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ed Burke was joined by his wife, Ann, and their children as the federal government's case against the former powerful alderman got underway Friday with its first witness.
Elmhurst University political science professor Connie Mixon gave jurors a crash course on the inner workings of Chicago's City Council and how Burke fit into it, or, as she called it, the "School House Rock" version of government.
In describing Burke's massive power, Mixon told the jury, "As mayors came and went, Burke was the one constant."
Under cross-examination, Burke's attorney, Chris Gair, was trying to show that during the time in question it was then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel that had the most influence. Gair asked Mixon if Emanuel was a force of nature.
She replied, "Yes."
Earlier, Gair finished up the opening statements he began late Thursday afternoon.
He reiterated to the jury of nine women and three men that Burke was a "dedicated public servant longer than many of you have been alive."
Gair described Burke as a "stickler for the rules to protect the taxpayers of Chicago."
Burke faces 14 counts of bribery, extortion and racketeering. He is accused of using his influence as the powerful chairman of City Council's Finance Committee to steer business to his private tax law firm.
Schemes included and involved the Old Post Office and a Burger King in Burke's 14th Ward.
Gair said, "There is no tie between tax appeal work and city business."
In addition, prosecutors said Burke held up a fee increase at the Field Museum because they ignored an internship application from a family friend.
Jurors also heard opening statements from the lawyers of Burke's co-defendants, developer Charles Cui and Burke's former ward Chief of Staff Pete Andrews.
Andrews is accused of being involved in the Burger King scheme.
Attorney Todd Pugh downplayed his client's position with Burke, telling jurors Andrews was a little staffer that was trying to help out in the 14th Ward.
Pugh referred to Andrews as "Part-time Pete and Lunch Pail Pete."