Ed Burke trial juror replaced after falling ill, defense allowed to call witness out of order

Sarah Schulte Image
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Burke juror replaced for illness, defense calls witness out of order
A juror was replaced in the corruption trial of former alderman Ed Burke Monday after falling ill.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Since former Ald. Ed Burke's public corruption trial officially began almost a month ago, it has had its fair share of obstacles.

Monday, a juror fell ill and was dismissed; an alternate took over, which comes on the heels of two COVID-related delays that forced the government to reshuffle its case and witnesses.

Prosecutors returned to the Burger King scheme Monday after jurors first began hearing testimony about it two weeks ago. Burke is accused of using his City Hall power and clout to shake down the Burger King's owner to hire Burke's law firm for property tax work.

The jury heard from Jimmy Wachaa, an executive for the Houston-based owners of the Burger King. His boss instructed him to use Burke's law firm, Klafter and Burke, for about 20 Burger Kings the company owned.

Owner Shoukat Dhanani previously testified that he felt the pressure to hire the firm to make it easier for the restaurant to get permits for a remodeling project. But Wachaa said he strung the firm along for several months.

Defying his boss, Wachaa said he went with his" gut feeling" and never signed an agreement, calling Burke's law firm "disorganized."

Following Wachaa's testimony, the trial took another curve. In what Judge Virgina Kendall called a unique situation, the defense called its first witness out of order, even though prosecutors have yet to rest their case.

Gabriella Garcia works for Klafter & Burke. She was called early because Garcia has surgery scheduled the week the defense plans to call witnesses. Garcia is a defense witness for the Old Post Office scheme. Burke is accused of shaking down the Old Post Office developer for property tax work.

Prosecutors wrapped up evidence for that portion last Friday with one more secret recording between Burke and Danny Solis. The former alderman turned government mole urged Burke to use Solis as a consultant to get him more tax appeal clients.