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Former Alderman Ed Burke walks towards the exit of the Dirksen Federal Building after a day of trial in the Ed Burke corruption trial on Dec. 11, 2023.

Former Alderman Ed Burke walks towards the exit of the Dirksen Federal Building after a day of trial in the Ed Burke corruption trial on Dec. 11, 2023.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere

Jurors begin deliberating historic racketeering case against former Ald. Ed Burke

A federal jury has begun to deliberate the racketeering case against Edward M. Burke, the longest-serving City Council member in Chicago history.

The jury of nine women and three men retired to begin considering the case that could decide Burke’s legacy at 2:16 p.m. Monday. It took U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall more than three-and-a-half hours to read them more than 300 pages of instructions.

Now lawyers can do little more than wait while the jury sorts out the complicated case. Jurors heard from 38 witnesses over 16 days of testimony as the feds tried to prove Burke guilty of racketeering, bribery and extortion.

Burke’s lawyers say the case amounted to “a lot of noise and confusion,” and they pilloried prosecutors for not calling on notorious FBI mole Danny Solis, who helped build the case, to testify. Burke’s lawyers summoned him to the witness stand instead.

Burke is accused of using his seat on the City Council to steer business to his private law firm amid schemes that involved Chicago’s massive Old Post Office, a Burger King near 41st and Pulaski, and a Binny’s Beverage Depot on the Northwest Side.

He is also accused of threatening to block an admission fee increase at the Field Museum because its employees did not respond when he tried to land an internship for the daughter of former Ald. Terry Gabinski. She has also been described in court as Burke’s goddaughter.

To convict Burke of racketeering, jurors must be convinced he committed two “acts” as part of a larger pattern. There are five umbrella “acts” listed in Burke’s indictment, but each one contains multiple allegations that jurors will likely be allowed to choose from.

The case against Burke has been pending for nearly five years. The FBI famously raided his City Hall and ward offices Nov. 29, 2018. Five weeks later, on Jan. 2, 2019, prosecutors filed an initial attempted extortion charge against him alleging he tried to shake down the owners of the Burger King in his 14th Ward.

Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot has acknowledged that the feds’ investigation of Burke helped catapult her to the mayor’s office in 2019.

Burke won re-election that year, despite the attempted extortion charge. A grand jury later handed up the broader racketeering indictment against him in May 2019. Burke served a final term and left office in May after serving a record 54 years.

The Chicago Sun-Times unmasked Solis as an FBI mole in January 2019. The 25th Ward City Council member agreed to wire up and help the feds after FBI agents showed up at his door on June 1, 2016, confronting him with evidence of his own alleged wrongdoing. He left office in 2019.

Solis also wore a wire against former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who faces trial on a separate indictment in April.

That means the verdict in Burke’s case could have implications for Madigan. Burke’s defense attorneys said jurors should find reasonable doubt in all allegations involving Solis because prosecutors did not call him to the witness stand.

Solis has been charged with bribery but struck a deal with prosecutors that could help him avoid a criminal conviction. The feds have called him one of Chicago’s “most significant cooperators in the last several decades.”

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