Jury deliberations begin in Chicago bribery case

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) — A federal jury has begun deliberations in the trial of a former Chicago official accused of taking bribes to steer $100 million in red-light camera contracts to a Phoenix company.

Prosecutors on Monday claimed that the man who ran Chicago’s red light camera program received, quote, "buckets and buckets of cash" in bribes. But defense attorneys claim John Bills was framed. It all happened during closing arguments, which included a rare argument by the U.S. attorney himself.

John Bills' lawyers are still nervous that Chicagoans' animosity toward red light cameras could influence the jury that's deciding his fate.

“We got the best jury we possible could in this jurisdiction where red light cameras are everywhere,” said defense attorney Nishay Sanan.

Bills, who is a former deputy commissioner of transportation, is accused of steering millions of dollars in contracts to the Redflex company in return for more than a half a million in bribes. His attorney, though, insists Bills didn't have the clout to steer anything to anyone.

“We all know the political machine in Chicago. John Bills is not the guy you go to,” Sanan said.

U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon headed the prosecution team. In his closing argument, Fardon likened Bills' behavior to "turning the knife in the stomach of the taxpayers of Chicago." He pointed to Bill's purchases of a used Mercedes and a condo in Arizona as proof that Bills was living the high-life. 

Fardon said there is no evidence Redflex bribed any elected officials, as Bills' attorney argued.

One veteran court watcher, who showed up to see a rare argument by U.S. attorney Fardon, was impressed.

“He's the new railsplitter, that's what I think of the man. He has the country charm of Lincoln, a style that absolutely will hold the attention of any jury,” said Sid Miller.

Away from the courtroom, Mayor Emanuel reminded reporters that the alleged bribery scheme began under then-Mayor Richard M. Daley..

“When the first questions were raised about Mr. Bills and Redflex, we fired the firm,” Emanuel said.

Fardon told the jury that there won't be any winners in this case, and that there can  only be justice. The jury began its deliberations late Monday and will return Tuesday.