CHICAGO - Since Alderman Ed Burke's arrest two-and-a-half years ago, his lawyers have waged an expensive legal battle to prevent some of his conversations secretly recorded by the FBI from ever becoming public.
In a new filing on Wednesday, federal prosecutors provided a hint of what is at stake. They quote him using the F-word and they argue that one key to proving their charge of extortion against the 14th Ward Alderman is this quote: "Jews are Jews and they’ll deal with Jews to the exclusion of everybody else unless…unless there’s a reason for them to use a Christian."
Burke’s lawyers want the court to bar that recording, calling it emotionally inflammatory and unfair to Burke. Prosecutors claim it shows Burke planning to abuse his governmental power to generate business for his property tax appeals law firm.
For many years, Burke has won multi-million dollar tax assessment reductions for clients such as Donald Trump's Trump Tower.
Lincoln Park’s Alderman Michele Smith (43rd Ward) denounced Burke’s language.
"It’s a plainly anti-Semitic remark. And I’m Jewish… it's not surprising. Here's a guy who led the council wars against the first African-American mayor in Chicago," she said.
Burke declined to answer reporters' questions about it, saying only that he would respond in court. Burke was indicted on 14 counts related to bribery, racketeering, extortion and official corruption.
Prosecutors wrote Wednesday that "Burke’s reference to Jewish lawyers is directly relevant to his intent to take official action in exchange for company a hiring his law firm."
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has previously called on Burke to resign.
"I just think there's no place in public life for somebody like him, who used his office in a corrupt fashion, who has cost the taxpayers untold tens of millions, if not more dollars," Lightfoot said Wednesday.
In addition to quoting burke in several foul-mouthed statements, the feds revealed that they considered planting an undercover agent close to him. In the end, they concluded they could not cook up a cover story that would convince Burke. Instead, they chose to record thousands of his conversations.