A pair of Chicago Bears defensive players came to the defense of embattled Alderman Edward Vrdolyak last year before he was sentenced to five years of probation for corruption.
Vrdolyak was caught on tape talking about plans to collect a bogus finder’s fee for a corrupt real estate deal, the Chicago Breaking News Center reports.
But “Tank” Johnson and Brian Urlacher said in written statements that were made public this week that Vrdolyak was a stand up guy. Their statements were part of a group of more than 50 letters submitted on the alderman’s behalf.
Urlacher said he was a friend of Vrdolyak’s youngest son, Eddie, before becoming close with the alderman.
"Without giving much detail about my family background, the best way I can describe Mr. V. is as a father figure," Urlacher wrote. "Over the years, I've had the opportunity to spend time with Mr. V. during the off-season, as well as going on family vacations and fishing trips."
Johnson, who encountered his own legal troubles during his tenure with the Bears – he now plays for Cincinnati – said the Vrdolyak helped him through a difficult period in his life.
"During my tenure in Chicago, I put myself into many tough situations making bad decisions," Johnson wrote. "Mr. Vrdolyak and I developed a close relationship during this period. He mentored me and told me a better path to take."
Numerous friends, family members and business associates of the alderman wrote similar letters extolling his virtues.
The real estate deal isn’t the first time Vrdolyak was accused of wrongdoing. In 1960 he was accused of attempted murder, but the charges were dropped. In 1990 he was censured by the Illinois State Bar Association for a conflict of interest. In 2006 he was tied to a scandal that landed Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese in prison.