Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin’s lawyers say she’s ‘not medically fit’ for trial
CHICAGO - Lawyers for indicted Chicago Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) told a judge Friday she is "not medically fit to stand trial" and that they will seek to have her prosecution put on hold.
Austin, who is in her early 70s, has faced a federal bribery indictment since July 2021. The charges allege she took home improvements materials — sump pumps, a dehumidifier and kitchen cabinets — as kickbacks from a developer overseeing a $50 million development in her ward.
There has been little progress in her case in the 16 months that have passed. Pretrial motions are due next week, but attorneys Thomas Anthony Durkin and Joshua Herman moved Friday to extend that deadline, pointing in part to Austin’s medical condition.
Though they did not reveal specifics, the lawyers said Austin "cannot cooperate fully with counsel or withstand the stress of a trial." They said they have given prosecutors 50 out of more than 700 pages of medical records documenting Austin’s troubles.
The defense attorneys called the records "startling to a layman."
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They also said that, by Nov. 18, they intend to file a motion to sever Austin from her co-defendant, chief of staff Chester Wilson. They say they want to stay the proceedings against Austin.
Austin and Wilson have each pleaded not guilty.
Reached by the Sun-Times, Durkin said he would not have argued Austin wasn’t fit to stand trial if he didn’t believe it.
"We will fully explain her medical condition and the reasons we believe she can’t withstand trial in the motion that we will file by Nov. 18," Durkin said.
Austin was receiving supplemental oxygen during Monday’s City Council meeting when the Council passed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $16.4 billion 2023 budget.
Nearly a year ago, Austin also collapsed in her seat during a separate City Council meeting in December 2021. The Council chambers were cleared, Austin was evaluated by paramedics, and she was taken out of the chambers conscious.
The feds put Austin under a cloud when they raided her ward offices in June 2019. Prosecutors say Austin lied to them that day, denying she received anything from the developer but a cake.
Her indictment alleges that, starting in April 2016, she and Wilson accepted home improvements, furniture and appliances from — and then took official actions for — developer Boris Nitchoff, as well as a relative of his, an associate and their companies.
Nitchoff died in 2020.
Austin watched in February as another indicted City Council member, Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), was convicted at trial for cheating on his taxes and lying to federal regulators. Thompson had to give up his seat, and he is now serving a four-month prison sentence.
Meanwhile, fellow Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) has faced federal criminal charges for 46 months. His trial is set to take place a year from now, in November 2023.