Ex-Ald. Danny Solis’ secret deal with the feds goes public

Former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis in July 2018
Former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis in July 2018. Bill Healy / WBEZ
Former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis in July 2018
Former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis in July 2018. Bill Healy / WBEZ

Ex-Ald. Danny Solis’ secret deal with the feds goes public

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The secret deal that former Ald. Danny Solis, 25th Ward, struck more than three years ago with federal prosecutors is now a public document.

A four-page deal known as a deferred-prosecution agreement hit the federal court docket Tuesday. Dated Dec. 26, 2018, it shows the feds agreed to charge Solis with one bribery count “based upon the substantial assistance” Solis had provided to law enforcement.

That assistance included turning on his colleagues and secretly recording conversations for the feds, as first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times less than a month after Solis signed the document.

Solis went undercover after investigators confronted him with his own alleged misdeeds. He would go on to help the feds build racketeering indictments against Ald. Edward M. Burke, 14th Ward, and former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Now, in a two-page exhibit attached to Solis’ deal titled “Admissions by Daniel Solis,” the former City Council member admits to a scheme in which he was caught discussing plans to solicit campaign money from a development group that needed his help at City Hall.

The group’s owners included Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf, as first reported by the Sun-Times.

If Solis holds up his end of the bargain with the feds, prosecutors have agreed to seek dismissal of the bribery charge filed against him last week. That means Solis could avoid prison time or a criminal conviction, much to the chagrin of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and others.

Solis is due to be arraigned Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood. But he might also become the latest Chicago politician to benefit from COVID-19 protocols at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

His arraignment is set to take place by telephone.

A litany of alleged misconduct by Solis had already been revealed in a bombshell FBI affidavit first obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times in January 2019. The document, filed in federal court in May 2016, alleged that Solis, once the City Council’s powerful zoning chair, “received a flow of private benefits” from people in exchange for official action.

Among those alleged benefits were Viagra, prostitution services and campaign contributions. The affidavit also alleged Solis “agreed to take action in his official capacity as an alderman for private benefits directed to Michael Madigan.”

The feds secretly recorded Solis, Madigan and others during a meeting at Madigan’s law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, in August 2014.

The Sun-Times first revealed Solis’ cooperation in January 2019. Since then, his undercover work has been featured in some of Chicago’s most high-profile public corruption indictments, which typically refer to him as “Alderman A.”

Burke told Solis “the cash register has not rung yet” and later asked him “did we land the … tuna?” as Burke tried to leverage his own power on the council to steer business to his private law firm, according to Burke’s indictment.

In the Madigan indictment, Solis played a role in alleged schemes to transfer a Chinatown property from the state to the city of Chicago to clear the way for a development, as well as to place Solis on a state board following his retirement from the City Council.