CHICAGO - Former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a federal bribery charge, and part of a deal with prosecutors may let him escape a conviction and preserve his city pension.
Solis secretly recorded conversations for the FBI with former House Speaker Mike Madigan and Ald. Ed Burke, both now indicted.
However, there was a surprise twist during Solis’ court hearing.
Federal prosecutors revealed city lawyers plan to claim every Chicagoan is a victim of Solis' long corruption crime spree. Previous court records said Solis got cash and sexual favors in exchange for rezoning commercial properties.
"The bigger question was all of the bribes that he took to allow for developments to go forward. He was involved in the post office remodeling. He was involved in Chinatown. He was involved in properties all over the city where he misused his position as head of the Zoning Committee of the City Council to give favors to developers," said University of Illinois Chicago Professor Dick Simpson.
After the feds caught Solis, he agreed to work with the FBI to make secret recordings of conversations with Madigan, Burke and others. The feds told Solis they would recommend he not be prosecuted, but the final decision on that would be up to a federal judge.
State Senator John Curran is a former Cook County prosecutor who notes that Solis is currently collecting a fat city pension worth nearly $100,000 a year.
"Those committing criminal acts and then co-operating with authorities -- I think it's a little too much to expect that you're going to walk away from everything with your pension intact. And, really, I think that's the city's main motivation here. And it is something that should be put before the judge," Curran said.
In a written statement, though, Mayor Lori Lightfoot stopped short of explicitly urging Judge Andrea Wood to overturn Solis' deal with the feds. It says that if Solis continues to co-operate with prosecutors, they will drop the bribery charge in 2025. Lightfoot, however, did say Solis should "be held accountable."