Prosecutors Planning to Call Ex-Ald. and Federal Informant Danny Solis as Witness in Michael Madigan Corruption Trial

Ald. Danny Solis, 25th Ward, appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Nov. 26, 2018.Ald. Danny Solis, 25th Ward, appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Nov. 26, 2018.

Disgraced former Ald. Danny Solis, who has been called one of the most significant government informants in recent memory, is expected to be called as a witness later this year by prosecutors in ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan’s racketeering trial.

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Federal prosecutors disclosed in a motion Monday that they do indeed plan to call Solis as a witness, marking a shift in strategy after they opted against calling him last year to testify against his onetime colleague, the former longtime 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke.

“The government anticipates calling former Alderman Daniel Solis at trial,” assistant U.S. attorneys wrote in a 200-plus page motion.

The longtime Illinois House speaker — who is charged alongside his confidant Michael McClain — is accused of participating in, and benefitting from, a variety of corruption schemes. Among the charges he’s facing are counts of racketeering conspiracy, using interstate facilities in aid of bribery, wire fraud and attempted extortion.

Solis, who has since entered into a deferred prosecution agreement after admitting he took bribes while serving as chair of Chicago’s Zoning Committee, secretly recorded hundreds of hours of phone conversations as part of investigations into Madigan and Burke.

According to the motion, Solis was directed by the FBI to speak with Madigan about certain topics, including the possibility of Madigan assisting Solis with obtaining a State Board position when he finished serving as an alderperson.

“This was a ruse,” prosecutors wrote in the motion. “Solis raised this possible appointment with Madigan at the direction of law enforcement authorities, and Solis was not seeking an appointment to a State Board. Madigan, however, based on the recordings and interceptions, responded to Solis’s request as if it were real.”

Solis is also expected to testify that Madigan continued asking him to make introductions to real estate developers so that Madigan could secure their tax business for his law firm, prosecutors said.

According to the motion, in a June 2018 conversation recorded by Solis, he spoke with Madigan about the potential for a state board seat before stating that he would “continue to get you legal business. I, I’ve got all kinds of stuff [referring to developments] happening in the South Loop and in the West Loop.”

“... see, I never knew that that section was in your ward,” Madigan allegedly replied. Prosecutors said Madigan then mentioned that he’d been “trying to make a connection with” the director of the company that was developing the Old Post Office project in Solis’ ward in order to pitch him to hire Madigan’s private law firm.

“I can bring you him,” Solis responded, “but you know, who’s been, um, actually, is [Chicago Alderman Ed] Burke has been, I, I’ve connected him to him, but he didn’t give him the work for the post office.”

Burke was ultimately convicted of bribery in connection to the Old Post Office redevelopment project.

Solis told Madigan that the developer had purchased other properties as well, and Madigan allegedly replied, “Yeah. Oh yeah. I know.”

“So, if you want, I can bring him to you too,” Solis said.

Later in the same conversation, after Solis again mentioned the possible board seat, Madigan allegedly stated that he would “put together a, uh, piece of paper that shows you all the” board members and their term dates.

“Solis is expected to testify that he believed that Madigan was trying to secure a board position for Solis because Solis had helped Madigan’s law firm get business in the past, and because Solis had told Madigan he would continue to do so, including by trying to get Individual A-1 to hire Madigan’s law firm,” prosecutors wrote in the motion.

Solis is also expected to testify about Madigan’s alleged efforts to illegally steer business to his private property tax law firm amid efforts to turn a vacant piece of land in Chinatown into a commercial development.

At Burke’s trial last year, FBI Special Agent Ryan McDonald detailed how investigators approached Solis and got him to cooperate. He told jurors that when he and another agent met with Solis at his South Loop home on June 1, 2016, the alderperson had no idea he’d been under investigation or that agents had intercepted thousands of calls on his cellphone between 2014 and 2015.

McDonald testified they informed Solis of the evidence they’d obtained against him — including allegations that he’d taken money, campaign contributions and trips from a developer in exchange for official action on the Zoning Committee — and that by the following day, he’d agreed to begin secretly recording phone calls at the FBI’s behest.

Solis first began making recordings days after he was approached by investigators in 2016 and continued doing so into 2018, according to McDonald. He also allowed the FBI to listen in and record calls on his cellphone.

While prosecutors declined to call him as a witness in Burke’s trial, numerous audio and video recordings he made were admitted as evidence. Instead, Burke’s defense team called Solis to the stand in an attempt to portray him as a “con man,” desperate to find something he could use to save his own skin.

Jurors ultimately convicted Burke on 13 of 14 counts of racketeering, bribery and extortion, including all three counts he faced in connection to the Old Post Office. His sentencing is scheduled later this year.

Madigan and McClain’s trial is set to begin in October.

Heather Cherone contributed to this report.

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