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Ed Burke, former Chicago Democratic alderman, found guilty in corruption trial

Ed Burke, who was once one of the most powerful Democratic City Council members in Chicago, was found guilty Thursday in a corruption trial. 

A federal judge found Burke guilty on all but one of 14 corruption counts, including racketeering, federal program bribery, and attempted extortion.

The jury, which comprised nine women and three men, had deliberated all week. 

The trial centered around Burke’s attempts to extort company executives of a Burger King in 2017 that they’d get building permits if they signed on as clients at his property tax law firm. 

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Per reporting from Chicago’s FOX 32, federal prosecutors alleged that Burke wouldn’t sign off on the permits until he met face-to-face with the owners. Federal prosecutors said the company eventually obtained the permits and began building, but Burke soon shut them down. 

“Elected officials are responsible for serving with honesty and integrity, with a moral responsibility to their constituents to uphold and abide by the law,” Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement. “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 said Burke “should rightfully be remembered as a man who elevated personal ambition and greed over doing other people’s work.” 

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Lightfoot said others were complicit in Burke’s corruption, including the “pernicious” practice of aldermanic prerogative, and other elected officials who “looked the other way as Burke systematically monetized the Finance Committee for his own personal benefit.” 

“But like many before who feasted on their gluttonous power, Burke was felled because this total lack of accountability made him foolishly think he was invincible,” Lightfoot said. “So he grossly overplayed his hand. He dug his own grave and jumped in.”

Burke is due back in court for a post-trial hearing on June 19. 

Burke had been on the council in Chicago for more than 50 years and chaired its finance committee for the last three decades.

Since the 1970s, nearly three dozen aldermen have been convicted. A common joke in Chicago is that so many aldermen had gone to prison that when they saw each other behind bars they’d holler, “Quorum call!”

   

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