Jim Burns, former U.S. lawyer, longtime inspector common for Illinois secretary of state, dies at 75

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Jim Burns, former U.S. attorney, longtime inspector general for Illinois secretary of state, dies at 75

Longtime Illinois Inspector General Jim Burns, who served four years as a U.S. attorney in Chicago, died this week at the age of 75.

Secretary of State Jesse White announced in a press release on Friday the death of Burns, who also ran for governor and played for the Chicago Bulls.

“Burns was a strong, visible, and independent Inspector General, and I am grateful for all he has achieved,” said White. “Burns restored public confidence and changed the culture of the office. His legacy of honesty, fairness and transparency has left an indelible mark on the Secretary of State and the state of Illinois. “

Burns’ reputation as an anti-corruption fighter led White to develop the former head of his Inspector General in 2000. Burns ran the US law firm during Operation Silver Shovel’s corruption investigation and the haunted Hall ghost salary prosecution. His office was also taken over by the street gang Gangster Disciples.

US attorney Jim Burns at a March 1996 press conference. Chicago Sun Times

Randall Samborn, who was hired by Burns as the first full-time spokesperson for the US law firm in Chicago, recalled Burns Friday as “the epitome of what you would want the US attorney to be”. He said the two remained close friends.

“It is serious business to be a United States attorney, and Jim took it seriously, as one would expect,” said Samborn. “But he never took himself seriously. He always had a joke or an acronym that made you laugh and kept you busy. “

Relatives refused to speak on Friday night. Agreements are still pending.

Burns earned his law degree from Northwestern University in 1971 and briefly shot the Chicago Bulls during the 1967/68 season before joining the American Basketball Association’s Dallas Chaparrals.

Jim Burns played part of a season for the Chicago Bulls after graduating from Northwestern University.

Jim Burns played part of a season for the Chicago Bulls after graduating from Northwestern University, where he averaged 20 points per game over three seasons for the Wildcats. Sun Times file

He then worked as a federal prosecutor from 1971 to 1978 and finally became head of the criminal proceedings department before moving into private practice.

President Bill Clinton named Burns the chief prosecutor of Chicago in 1993. In Chicago, Burns ran an office of 250 people while fighting street gangs, public corruption, and organized crime, and left that job in 1997.

Ron Safer, US attorney serving as federal attorney, recalled Burns taking in the gangster disciples even though it was “not in the heartland” of an office long known for combating public corruption. He did so despite the consequences of previous beliefs Participation of the El Rukn street gang, which was dismantled.

“(Burns) had the nerve to say,” We’re going to do this because people are being killed on our streets, “Safer said.

The investigation into the gangster disciples got “legs” on Burns’ watch, Safer said. Burns reached out to the Chicago Police Department for officials who could help identify street activity that confirmed secretly recorded conversations between Gangster Disciples co-founder Larry Hoover and his top lieutenants at the Vienna Correctional Center.

The gubernatorial hopeful Jim Burns spoke to reporters in his hotel suite on election night in March 1998.  Next to him is his wife Marty.

The gubernatorial hopeful Jim Burns spoke to reporters in his hotel suite on election night in March 1998. Next to him is his wife Marty. AP

After his time as a US attorney, Burns tried unsuccessfully in 1998 for the Democratic nomination for governor. Samborn admitted that Burns had political ambitions but said that Burns was persecuting them “without ever affecting the way he worked as a US attorney.”

White named Burns General Inspector in April 2000. Burns expanded the office, hired professional investigators from diverse backgrounds, and passed laws that made the position permanent and expanded its reach. He created a website and hotline for the public or staff to file complaints, set up a review committee, and strengthened relationships with outside law enforcement agencies, which, according to White’s office, resulted in multiple law enforcement actions.

“He made a huge difference in our office,” said Dave Druker, White’s spokesman.

Contributor: Manny Ramos