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Flanked by family members and attorneys, former Ald. Edward Burke (14th) walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after being found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion.

Flanked by family members and attorneys, former Ald. Edward Burke (14th) walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after being found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion.

Ashlee Rezin

Former Chicago Ald. Ed Burke convicted of racketeering and bribery, but his aide is acquitted

Edward M. Burke, the longest-serving City Council member in Chicago history, was convicted Thursday of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion.

A federal jury found Burke guilty on all but one of 14 corruption counts against him. Jurors found that he committed racketeering acts in all four schemes laid out in his indictment involving the Old Post Office, a Burger King in Burke’s 14th Ward, Binny’s Beverage Depot and the Field Museum.

Burke was accused of using his powerful position in the City Council to steer business to his law firm.

Burke remained straight-faced, his chin resting on his hands, as the verdict was read. His wife, retired Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke, stepped over to him and they exchanged a kiss and a hug as the jurors left the courtroom.

Burke faces significant prison time when he is sentenced, which is scheduled for June 19.

Developer Charles Cui, on trial with Burke, was found guilty but an aide to Burke, Peter Andrews, was found not guilty. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall told Andrews, “You are discharged.”

Andrews’ lawyer quickly released a statement thanking the jury for his acquittal and saying “these verdicts are a well-deserved Christmas blessing.”

Word of the verdict came around 2 p.m. after roughly 23 hours of deliberations. As prosecutors and lawyers gathered in the courtroom, Burke sat at the defense table, his left hand resting on his right. He tapped his right hand on the table slightly. He was dressed in a dark suit.

The jury of nine women and three men entered the courtroom around 2:20 p.m. Cui’s verdict was read first, then Andrews’, then Burke’s.



Peter Andrews, a co-defendant of former Ald. Ed Burke (14th), walks out of the Everett M. Dirksen Courthouse wearing a Christmas hat, after Andrews was found not guilty, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023.

Peter Andrews, a co-defendant of former Ald. Ed Burke (14th), walks out of the Everett M. Dirksen Courthouse wearing a Christmas hat, after Andrews was found not guilty, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. Burke was found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion.

Pat Nabong

Burke was expressionless as he walked through the revolving doors of the Dirksen federal courthouse and into the street. A slight smile briefly appeared on his face as he was greeted by a throng of reporters. Burke stepped into a black SUV with his wife.

Mayor Brandon Johnson said after the verdict that “elected officials are responsible for serving with honesty and integrity, with a moral responsibility to their constituents to uphold and abide by the law. In the case that they fail to do so, it is imperative that they are held accountable. That is what the jury decided today.”

Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has acknowledged that Burke’s indictment helped her win the office, released a statement saying, “With this jury’s verdict, Ed Burke should rightfully be remembered as a man who elevated personal ambition and greed over doing the people’s work.”

Ald. Matt Martin (47th), chair of the City Council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said Burke’s conviction is an “incredibly sad reminder” of Burke’s failure to live up to the “fundamental responsibility that all elected officials have to put the public’s interest above their own personal gain.”

He noted that the Better Government Association and the Chicago Board of Ethics have “put forth a number of different ideas” to deliver a more ethical and transparent City Council that should be the “starting point” for additional reforms.

Those proposals include limiting political contributions from city contractors and expanding the jurisdiction of the inspector general’s office — both in terms of who the IG is empowered to investigate and when her investigative reports are made public. Term limits and ways to curb aldermanic prerogative over zoning should not be “off the table” either, the chairman said.

The jurors heard from 38 witnesses over 16 days of testimony as prosecutors made their case that Burke was “a bribe taker” and “an extortionist” in a historic trial of one of the city’s most powerful politicians.

The trial also forced famous FBI mole Danny Solis out of hiding five years after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that he’d worn a wire against Burke.

The verdict is the result of an aggressive public corruption investigation that came to light five years ago in November 2018, with an FBI raid on Burke’s offices and subsequent revelations that shook Chicago and changed the course of the city’s political history.

Burke, a powerful and seemingly untouchable old-school politician, suddenly found himself in the feds’ crosshairs. Solis, another longtime City Council member, was unmasked as an FBI informant who wired up after being confronted with evidence of his own alleged corruption.

And it all came down amid a heated mayoral campaign that put Lori Lightfoot in the mayor’s office.

Burke spent more than a half-century representing Chicago’s 14th Ward. He amassed his power through his decades-long chairmanship of the Finance Committee. Under Burke, it oversaw the city’s purse strings with a roughly $2 million budget and dozens of employees.



Flanked by family members and attorneys, former Ald. Edward Burke (14th) walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after being found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Flanked by family members and attorneys, former Ald. Edward Burke (14th) walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after being found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023.

Ashlee Rezin

Though city departments fall under the power of the executive branch, Burke had a vast network of allies throughout those departments he could call on for help.

Outside city government, Burke propelled judges to the bench in his role as judicial slatemaker for the Cook County Democratic Party. He is married to the recently retired chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, Anne Burke.

Throughout his decades in office, Burke became known as a charismatic storyteller with a knack for Chicago history — he would often begin or end his floor speeches with little-known historical anecdotes meant to illustrate a modern-day point.

But he was also known to be cutting when crossed, and he used his power to both charm and intimidate his colleagues.

Prosecutors alleged that Burke used his City Council seat to strong-arm private business for his law firm, Klafter & Burke, from developers working on Chicago’s massive Old Post Office, a Burger King in Burke’s 14th Ward and a Binny’s Beverage Depot on the Northwest Side.

They also said he threatened to block an admission fee increase at the Field Museum because it failed to respond when he recommended the daughter of former Ald. Terry Gabinski for an internship.

Gabinski’s daughter has been described in court as Burke’s goddaughter.

Burke left office in May. Political aide Peter Andrews and developer Charles Cui went to trial alongside him.

Prosecutors began presenting their evidence by launching first into the Field Museum episode. They called former museum employee Deborah Bekken and former museum President Richard Lariviere to the witness stand.

Bekken, who served as a government liaison, explained how she reached out to Burke in September 2017. The museum planned to soon seek a fee increase from the Chicago Park Board, and it wanted to get ahead of any opposition from Burke, the City Council’s longtime finance chair.

Burke’s lawyers say Bekken caught him at a bad time. And Burke quickly explained to Bekken how he’d never heard back about the internship for Gabinski’s daughter.

“So now, you’re going to make a request of me?” Burke asked on Sept. 8, 2017.



Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Morris Pasqual speaks with reporters at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after former Ald. Edward Burke (14th) was found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Morris Pasqual speaks with reporters at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after former Ald. Edward Burke (14th) was found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023.

Ashlee Rezin

“I’m sure I know what you want to do,” Burke continued. “Because if the chairman of the Committee on Finance calls the president of the park board, your proposal is going to go nowhere.”

From the witness stand last month, Bekken said, “I perceived it as a threat.”

Lariviere spoke to Burke minutes later. Regarding Gabinski’s daughter, he asked, “Can I get in touch with her and see what we can do?”

Burke told him, “No. That, that ship has already left the dock.”

While being cross-examined by one of Burke’s defense attorneys, Lariviere testified that Burke did not threaten him or the Field Museum, and he said he did not believe the fee increase was in any danger.

But he eventually pushed back when the attorney tried to insist Burke never demanded a job for Gabinski’s daughter. Lariviere said that Burke “kept sending us information about her application.”

Prosecutors also told the jury that Burke shook down the owners of a Burger King near 41st and Pulaski. Initially, they called its owner, Shoukat Dhanani of Texas, to the stand. Later, they summoned his son, Zohaib Dhanani.

Shoukat Dhanani visited Chicago in 2017. He and his son met with Burke in June 2017 at the Burger King to discuss a planned remodel. They also had a follow-up lunch with Burke at the Beverly Country Club. That’s where Burke told them all about his law firm.

Zohaib Dhanani testified about a call he had with Burke two weeks later in which Burke said, “We were going to talk about the real estate tax representation, and you were going to have somebody get in touch with me so we can expedite your permits.”

Zohaib Dhanani told jurors “it seems like the two were being linked together … the property taxes and the permits.”

The remodeling work at the Dhananis’ Burger King was allegedly shut down by Andrews, on behalf of Burke’s office, in October 2017. Shoukat Dhanani testified that he had a “gut feeling” why Burke intervened.

“Maybe since I had not responded about the property tax business, maybe that’s why it would have been shut down,” Shoukat Dhanani testified. “I didn’t see any other reason why it would be shut down.”

Andrews told an architect involved in the remodeling that work could resume on Dec. 13, 2017. That was one day after the Dhananis again met with Burke and said they would have someone look into sending business to Burke’s firm.



Former Alderman Danny Solis walks towards a waiting vehicle outside the Dirksen Federal Building after a day of trial in the Ed Burke corruption trial, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023.

Former Alderman Danny Solis walks toward a waiting vehicle outside the Dirksen Federal Building after a day of trial in the Ed Burke corruption trial, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere

Meanwhile in 2017, City Hall refused to allow Binny’s to use a pole sign at a property in the 4900 block of West Irving Park Road. Cui thought he stood to lose as much as $750,000 on his development there as a result. Prosecutors say he stood to lose millions. Jurors heard that Cui reached out to Burke for help — but also hired Burke’s law firm.

Explaining his decision to hire Burke’s firm, Cui allegedly told an attorney in an email that Burke “is a powerful broker in City Hall, and I need him now.”

Burke also heard from a friend of Cui’s, developer Ray Chin, who told him, “I guess [Cui] has some need for you now.”

Burke had his assistant reach out to then-Buildings Commissioner Judy Frydland to ask her to look into Cui’s pole-sign issue the same day Burke’s firm began signing Cui up as a client.

But the heart of the feds’ case against Burke is really the alleged scheme involving the Old Post Office, which straddles the Eisenhower Expressway. Solis, who represented the 25th Ward where the building stands, made crucial recordings heard by the jury.

The development firm that agreed to take on the complicated renovation of the Depression-era building, 601W Companies LLC of New York, quickly became frustrated with Amtrak as it embarked on its work. Amtrak owned the railroad tracks that run underneath the building, but jurors heard that it dragged its feet and charged the Post Office developers exorbitant fees.

Burke allegedly took advantage of their troubles. He was repeatedly recorded telling people he helped make an Amtrak board member’s daughter a judge.

He mentioned that bit of leverage in one key meeting that Solis secretly recorded. During that meeting, Burke explained 601W’s troubles with Amtrak and told his colleague, “Jews are Jews, and they’ll deal with Jews to the exclusion of everybody else … unless there’s a reason for them to use a Christian.”

The lead developer of the Old Post Office was Jewish. Burke is Roman Catholic.

Later, the developers discovered that City Hall planned to tear down the building’s broken-down western plaza, leaving a gaping hole in its place. So 601W sought to tap into $20 million in tax increment financing in 2017. However, the developers had not yet hired Burke’s law firm.

In a private meeting with Solis, Burke told his colleague the Post Office developers could “go f— themselves.”

However, nearly a year later, 601W hired Burke’s firm to perform property tax appeals work at the Sullivan Center Offices at State and Madison. The deal was dated Aug. 24, 2018.

On Sept. 20, 2018, Burke moved for the City Council to pass the developers’ TIF proposal. And then he voted in favor of it.

Emmanuel Camarillo contributed

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