Ald. No shame, Edward M. Burke, 14, took his normal seat on the city council on Wednesday as this August body resumed its face-to-face deliberations for the first time since its pandemic recess.
It was easy to forget Burke last year while the council only met remotely via video. The once powerful finance chairman was just another box in the Hollywood squares except when he opened his yap, which luckily was far rarer than the chatty ringmaster of the chamber back then.
But there it was Wednesday, back on our faces, a reminder that despite a federal corruption case that has been pending for more than two years and has no trial in sight, he has gone nowhere. That, of course, is his right to have been duly re-elected by voters in his Southwest Side ward, which doesn’t make it any less annoying.
And that’s why we can give you a new photo of a masked Burke from Wednesday when the federal prosecution released a lengthy – and heavily edited – court record in response to his attorneys’ efforts to bring charges against him or, alternatively, some of the best evidence in the world Repeal government.
Burke has some very good lawyers, Joseph Duffy from Loeb & Loeb and Charles Sklarsky as well as the former US lawyer Anton Valukas from Jenner & Block.
I am just as guilty as anyone in the news media of losing sight of the presumption of innocence and instead assuming that when federal prosecutors bring charges against a big fish like Burke, they are bringing something to a standstill, even if their track record definitely bears it out Thinking.
It’s even harder to stay open when it’s someone like Burke, who I’ve always believed would use his public office to get clients into his legal business, although I might have imagined he was a little more subtle than on the extortion and bribery charges.
Ald. Ed Burke (14th) attends the city council meeting at City Hall on Wednesday morning. Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times
Much of the charge is based on wiretapping of Burke’s phone calls, and a key element of his defense seeks to convince Judge Robert Dow that the prosecution never had a probable reason to justify approving the wiretapping in the first place.
They argue that federal investigators had no evidence that Burke tried to commit a crime simply because he spoke to Ald. Danny Solis, 25, who at the time was working as the government mole to help him do legal business from the developers of the old central post office building.
One of their claims is that Burke offered not to take official action on behalf of the developer and really was unable to do so because the matter was before Solis, not him.
I thought the prosecutor responded pretty well and made it clearer than ever that their theory of the case is that Burke is taking advantage of threats of official action from Solis – who was in a strong position to block the project because it was in located his community – to use the legal fees for himself, which he then promised to part with Solis.
Former Ald. Danny Solis in 2016. Brian Jackson / Sun Times File
This is exactly the kind of bank shot I would always have expected from Burke, and in this case, he allegedly suggested covering up the payment by routing it through another attorney, which also fits.
Another complaint from Burke’s attorneys is that federal investigators were given permission to tap on Burke’s phones based on the Post’s investigation, but then came across phone calls dealing with another alleged shakedown that eventually hit him was accused of having rebuilt a Burger King in its 14th division.
Burke’s attorneys say investigators should have stopped listening when the subject switched to Burger King. In the wiretapping law this is called minimization.
The prosecutors say in very precise legal language that this is just Burke’s bad luck.
Prosecutors noted that investigators were serious about their duty to “minimize” the calls they were tapping: “Numerous calls were minimized (and in some cases automatically minimized) once the call was determined to be was about a no-call-competent topic or was with someone who had a personal or private relationship with Burke. ”
That came so close to anything I’ve seen answering a question I’ve had since the beginning of this case: What did the government do when Burke spoke on the phone with his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke ?
I think they were ordered not to listen. A footnote that could have provided the answer has been completely edited.
Burke may not be going anywhere, but neither is it.