Old Post Office renovation architect takes stand in corruption case
CHICAGO (WLS) -- More secret recordings were played in court on Wednesday in the corruption trial of former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke.
Wednesday's testimony came five years to the day since FBI agents raided Burke's offices. That raid marked the beginning of the end of Burke's long, powerful political career.
Burke is accused of using his position as alderman and chairman of the Finance Committee to pressure developers into hiring his private law firm.
Burke sat and intensely listened to prosecutors lay out a corruption case against him on Wednesday. Much of the evidence used against Burke includes his own words.
For the past two days, the jury has heard secret recordings between Burke and former alderman-turned-government mole Danny Solis. Some evidence included grainy video shot from a wire Solis was wearing on his chest.
Both men were trying to convince the developer of the massive Old Post Office renovation project to use Burke's firm, Klafer & Burke. Located above the Eisenhower Expressway, the Old Post Office sits on four acres of land and is 2.5 million square feet.
In August of 2016, the feds recorded Burke and Solis talking about the Old Post Office, which was a massive $600 million renovation project.
In the recording, Burke is heard telling Solis to "recommend the good firm of Klafter & Burke to do the tax work" to the developer.
Solis, who was the chair of the city's Zoning Committee, agreed to mention Burke's firm, which does commercial property tax appeals.
Following a meeting with the developer, Solis discussed with Burke his role as a possible consultant to "tee up" more developers to use his firm.
Burke said to Solis, "Hey, you're not gonna get in any trouble, and I'm certainly not gonna get in any trouble at this stage of the game."
Prosecutors also allege Burke illegally offered Solis a reward for any business he could bring his firm.
"Hey, you know I'm of the belief that that if you get help from somebody to get some work, that they're entitled to share it, and just up to us to figure out a way can be done so that there's no pitfalls, really. And this wouldn't be the first time, won't be the last time. I'm a believer in sharing," Burke can be heard saying on a recording.
The 79-year-old Burke faces 14 counts of racketeering, bribery and extortion. Prosecutors are laying out four different episodes Burke is involved with, including the Old Post Office.
Burke is accused of withholding his help on a tax increment financing issue until the developers used Klafer & Burke. Up until then, Burke wanted to make developer happy.
When there was a water issue, Burke intervened. Former Water Commissioner Barrett Murphy told jurors with Burke involved, there was "heat" coming from City Hall to get the building back on the tax rolls. Murphy described Burke as "extremely intimidating."