Jurors convict ex-Chicago alderman in bribery case

June 17, 2013

The Associated Press

Jurors convicted a former Chicago alderman on Monday of seeking to bribe what turned out to be a fictitious Los Angeles official — a verdict that's likely put the 59-year-old back behind bars for a second time after a high-profile stint in prison in the 1990s.

His hands folded in his lap, Ambrosio Medrano showed no emotion as an official at U.S. District Court in Chicago read the jury's decision on the sole count he faced at the two-week trial, conspiracy to commit bribery. At his Sept. 24 sentencing, he faces a maximum five-year prison term.

But it's not the end of Medrano's legal saga. He is also charged with trying to accept kickbacks in a separate scheme to sell bandages to public hospitals. That trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 21 in the same federal courthouse.

Medrano remains free on bond, pending sentencing, and he did not speak to reporters after Monday's verdict. But his attorney, Gal Pissetzky, said Medrano plans to appeal.

"He's feeling strong but disappointed," Pissetzky said. "He definitely accepts the verdict — but doesn't agree with it."

Medrano and two co-defendant businessmen — who were also convicted Monday — were accused of paying $6,500 to an undercover agent posing as a sales rep. He, in turn, said he would pass the money to a Los Angeles official who could secure a lucrative health care contract for the men.

But it was all part of FBI sting in which the men dealt with the mediator but never with any official.

Jurors deliberated for less than five hours on the evidence, which included extensive wiretap recordings, before returning with a verdict early Monday afternoon.

During his closing arguments Friday, another defense attorney, John De Leon, told jurors that Medrano thought the business deal was legitimate but never believed the supposedly well-connected official actually existed.

"If you don't believe a person existed, you can't form the intent to bribe," he said.

Medrano spent nearly two years in prison after pleading guilty in 1996 in the government's Operation Silver Shovel investigation into payoffs to aldermen and other Chicago-area politicians.

In 2002, he ran unsuccessfully to regain his City Council seat after a court ruled a state law barring felons from public office was unconstitutional. He tried to run again in 2007, but the state's Supreme Court ruled he was ineligible because he had been convicted of taking payoffs while on the on the council.