Deliberations in Ex-Ald. Ed Burke Corruption Trial Enter 2nd Day, As Jury Asks 2 Questions

Video: The WTTW News Spotlight Politics team discusses the Ed Burke trial and more of the day’s top stories. (Produced by Paul Caine)

Deliberations in the landmark corruption trial of former Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) entered their second day Tuesday, with jurors sending two questions to the judge focusing on two separate parts of the massive and complicated case.

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In addition, the lawyers for Pete Andrews, 73, one of the former alderperson’s codefendants and former aide, told U.S. District Court Judge Virigina Kendall that their client had been hospitalized. 

Attorney Todd Pugh did not elaborate on Andrews’ condition during a brief appearance but told Kendall that Andrews’ condition was not as serious as they initially feared.

The first communication from the jury of nine women and three men came approximately an hour into their deliberations on Tuesday and focused on one of the charges facing another of Burke’s codefendants, Charles Cui, 52.

Cui is charged with one count of bribery, three counts of using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity and one count of making a false statement to the FBI.

The jury’s question focused on one of the charges that Cui used interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity.

The more than 300 pages of instructions the jury must follow ask them to determine whether Burke accepted property “that he was not authorized by law to accept” and “a fee or reward which he knows is not authorized by law” from Cui.

Jurors asked for a definition of the phrase “not authorized by law.”

After about an hour of wrangling among the attorneys, Kendall agreed to tell the jury that they have all of the information they need to answer that question. That followed a recommendation from Cui’s attorney, Tinos Diamantatos.

Cui is a businessman who transformed a long-vacant Six Corners bank building into a Binny’s Beverage Depot, Culver’s and gym.

According to federal prosecutors, Cui went to Burke when city officials denied his request for a large pole sign outside the former bank building that he redeveloped. Burke offered to help Cui, if he hired Klafter & Burke. Cui did, according to evidence shown to the jury.

Burke did nothing wrong when he pressed city officials to look into why a request for a pole sign on the Far Northwest Side had been denied, Burke’s defense attorneys told the jury. 

Diamantatos said Cui did not intend to bribe Burke. Instead, he was looking for legal representation.

Approximately five hours later, the jury sent its second note to Kendall. That note focused on another of the schemes prosecutors laid out to the jury, this one involving the redevelopment of the Old Post Office. That massive building straddles not just the Eisenhower Expressway, but also commuter tracks owned by Amtrak.

The jurors ended their deliberations about an hour after getting the answer to their second question, leaving for the day just after 4:30 p.m.

Prosecutors have claimed Burke identified the $800 million renovation of the massive building, which needed an $18 million subsidy and a tax break worth $100 million from the city to move forward, as an opportunity to force the developer to hire his law firm.

To demonstrate his ability to smooth the redevelopment, Burke contacted Amtrak officials, which was preventing the redeveloper from accessing the tracks to start work on the project, according to evidence presented to the jury.

Jurors asked Kendall whether Amtrak employees are considered public officers or public employees.

With the approval of prosecutors and defense attorneys, Kendall sent back a single word as a response: “no.”

If the jury does not reach a verdict before Friday, deliberations will be suspended Dec. 25 through Dec. 29 because of the Christmas holiday and resume Jan. 3.

Burke, 79, faces 14 charges of racketeering, bribery and extortion. Racketeering charges — usually brought against members of the mob or street gangs — allege a pattern of corruption unknown to its victims.

Andrews, of Chicago, faces five charges, including attempted extortion and making a false statement to the FBI. 

Cui, of Lake Forest, also faces five charges, including bribery and making a false statement to the FBI.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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