Former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke sentenced to 2 years in prison for corruption convictions

Burke also must pay $2M fine

Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Ed Burke gets 2-year prison sentence for corruption convictions
Former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke was sentenced Monday for his bribery, attempted extortion and racketeering corruption convictions.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ed Burke, once the most powerful Chicago alderman, was sentenced on corruption charges Monday at the Dirksen Federal Building.

Judge Virginia M. Kendall gave him a two-year prison sentence and $2 million fine.

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The fine consists of $200,000 on count one and $150,000 on each of the remaining counts. The money will go toward the victims of Burke's crimes.

The judge also gave him one year of supervised release.

Burke entered the courthouse at 9:15 a.m. Monday morning with his wife, Anne, by his side.

Burke remained stoic during his sentencing, but Anne could be seen holding back tears.

The judge received over 200 letters of support for Burke, which she appeared to take into account during the sentencing. She also appeared to take Burke's age into account.

The letters came from prominent officials and ordinary citizens who wrote of his acts of kindness.

Burke's attorney described him as a priest without a collar.

Defense Attorney Charles Sklarsky said Burke's life is more than the tapes people heard.

This case has rocked city politics and tanked Ed Burke's storied career as a Chicago politician.

Chicago Alderman Ed Burke received a lesser sentence than many people expected, Washington said.

The 80-year-old was convicted of 13 counts of racketeering, extortion and bribery back in December, after a trial that lasted over six weeks.

Federal prosecutors said he corruptly sought to steer tax-appeals work to his private law firm by pressuring the developers of the Old Post Office, a Burger King in his Southwest Side ward and the owner of a Binny's on the Northwest Side.

The case against Burke relied heavily on over 100 secretly recorded videos and phone conversations with former Alderman Danny Solis, who was working as a government mole. There were also dozens of witnesses.

Federal prosecutors asked for a 10-year sentence for abusing his position to solicit and extort private legal work from companies. While Burke's attorneys asked for home confinement or probation, instead.

Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Richard Kling spoke with ABC7 about the options the judge had for Burke's sentencing.

The city's longest-serving alderman's legal team filed a motion on Friday asking to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court hands down its ruling in a separate case involving bribery charges.

But the judge denied that request to delay sentencing.

U.S. Attorney Sarah Streiker had hoped the judge would not take Burke's age into consideration, saying "His age did nothing to deter him to committing crimes, and shouldn't absolve when it comes to punishment."

The crimes were committed when Burke was in his 70s.

Attorney Tony Thedford said the judge received countless letters from the public asking to speak at the hearing.

After attorneys made their arguments, Burke had the opportunity to speak to the judge directly.

ABC7's Craig Wall and Sarah Schulte talked about the significance of Ed Burke's prison sentence.

He didn't quite apologize, but came close.

He told Kendall, "The blame for this is mine and mine alone; I regret the pain I caused to my family and friends."

Another co-defendant was also convicted in this case. A third defendant was acquitted of all charges.

Burke has until Sept. 23 to report to prison, but it was not immediately clear where he would be sent. The defense has requested that he be sent to the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wisconsin.

He declined to comment on his sentence when leaving court Monday with his wife, four children and attorneys.

Monday's sentencing ended a chapter on a case that has rocked city politics while casting stones on a storied career of the longest-serving alderman on city council.

The question history has yet to answer: Will the moral of Burke's story impact the morals of the current and future city councils?

"I hope that people see what happened here today and know that no matter what heights you've reached, that the possibility is still there for the feds to come down if you're committing that 'pay to play,'" said 32rd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack.

Officials from the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office put out statements later Monday afternoon.

"Corruption in the Chicago City Council tears at the fabric of a vital body of local government," said Morris Pasqual, acting United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. "When an alderman fails to discharge his duties with honesty and integrity, he betrays not only the citizens of Chicago, but his fellow public officials who do their jobs the right way. Our office will continue to vigorously prosecute corruption and hold public officials accountable for violating the public trust."

"Aldermen are elected by their constituents to advocate for the public good," said Robert W. "Wes" Wheeler Jr., special agent-in-charge of the FBI Chicago Field Office. "Bribery and extortion are contrary to that simple mission, and today's sentencing highlights the consequences of betraying the public's trust for one's own illegal gains. The FBI is proud to work with partners at all levels of government to stamp out public corruption in northern Illinois."

Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot spoke on the sentencing, as well.

"Clearly, this former federal prosecutor, who has been a judge now for a long time, was very bothered that the government chose to give Danny Solis a get-out-of-jail card, whereas they were asking for her to swing to the fences for Ed Burke. She clearly didn't do that, two years, given what she could've done," Lightfoot said. "I think the thing that's gotten lost is this is not a victimless crime. This is a man who operated on a system, where he monetized his position and took advantage and took retaliation for people who did not bend to his will."

Lightfoot's anti-corruption messaging in the wake of the FBI raid on Burke's City Hall office in 2018 propelled her into the mayor's office.

"She's (Kendall's) not known for being a light touch when it comes to sentencing. But, clearly, there were things that she was affected by. I think the letters of support; I think she was affected by the sleaze factor. And I think she was affected by other aspects of the government's case and how hard they were going at her to give a really harsh sentence to an 80-something-year-old," Lightfoot said.

The judge said her job was to impose a sufficient sentence but not greater than necessary.

"I think it was a fair sentence, the two years, the one year probation, the $2 million fine. I think sends a clear message. This was a crime. The jury was unanimous in their decision on 13 counts. And it is a big downfall for what was the most powerful alderman in the city of Chicago for most of his 54 years in the Council," Dick Simpson said.