Disgraced former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke pushes for new trial

Disgraced former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke is seeking a new trial following his conviction on racketeering conspiracy and other charges related to using his elected office to secure private business.

Burke's legal team argued that "no reasonable jury" would have found him guilty in last year's corruption trial. Burke himself on Wednesday presented arguments as to why the counts against him should be dropped.

Burke is scheduled to be sentenced on June 24. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall adjourned court for the day and stated that she would issue an order shortly.

Burke — the longest serving City Council member in Chicago’s history — was found guilty of several felonies in December 2023.

Burke was facing 14 counts and found guilty on 13 of them, which included: racketeering; corruptly soliciting, demanding, accepting, or agreeing to accept things of value; using an interstate facility to promote unlawful activity; and attempted extortion.

The corruption schemes occurred in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

"The public voted Mr. Burke into office, and they trusted that he would be guided by and motivated by pursuing the common good. He betrayed that trust," said Morris Pasqual, the acting U.S. Attorney for Chicago.

Arguments in the trial concluded earlier this week, and the jury – made up of nine women and three men – deliberated for 23 hours over four days before returning its verdict after weighing the testimony of 38 witnesses and hearing more than 100 recordings. It acquitted Burke on one count of conspiracy.

A key chapter of the trial was what federal prosecutors call a "shakedown" between Burke and the owners of a Southwest Side Burger King in 2017. Burke was accused of holding up building and driveway permits in an attempt to get tax business from the franchise owners for his private law firm.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Burke wouldn't sign off on the permits until he met face-to-face with the owners. A photo presented in court showed Burke at an in-person meeting in the parking lot of that Burger King in June 2017.

On a recorded call, Burke is heard saying that he took the owners to lunch at the Beverly Country Club and was "playing nice with them," but they never got back to him.

Political aide, Peter J. Andrews, then replied: "I will play as hard ball as I can."

"This case was about bribery and extortion occurring at the highest levels of Chicago city government," said Pasqual.

Federal prosecutors say the franchisees eventually obtained a building permit from the city and began their remodeling work – but Burke soon shut the construction down.

Former Ald. Danny Solis — who wore a wire for the FBI and in exchange avoided prosecution — testified on the stand. The evidence he gathered was central to the racketeering case against Burke.

During an in-person meeting that Solis recorded, Burke was seen on the phone, then said, "Give Danny a call because I think he is going to be a main player in this whole process."

Jurors also listened to a phone conversation secretly recorded in 2017, where the Burger King allegations were discussed.

"And, 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 could expedite your permits," Burke is heard on recorded phone call audio saying.

Someone then says, "I'm sorry Mr. Burke, was what that last part?" – to which Burke responds, "You were going to have somebody call me so we can help you make sure you get your permits, for the remodeling."

In response, Burke's defense attorneys had emphasized that the law firm was never actually hired, and the mentioned discussion was just a small part of a much longer conversation.

Additionally, evidence presented during the trial revealed Burke's role in other schemes, such as trying to muscle developers – like the Old Post Office development in the West Loop and a retail development on the Northwest Side – to hire his law firm.

Burke also threatened to oppose an admission fee increase at the Field Museum because the museum never responded to Burke regarding a request for an internship at the museum for a child of one of his friends.