Closing arguments are expected to begin Monday in the federal tax trial of Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, and the presiding judge has said jurors could expect to have the case in their hands later that day.
That’s when it will be time for the panel of four men and eight women — teachers, an emergency medical technician, sales associates and others — to decide the fate of a sitting alderperson and a member of Chicago’s most storied political family.
Friday began with arguments over a defense bid to have U.S. District Judge Franklin Valderrama throw out two of the seven counts in Thompson’s indictment. Also looming was the question of whether Thompson would take the stand.
But Valderrama denied the defense request, saying Thompson’s attorneys had failed to clear what he called an “extremely high bar,” and Thompson confirmed he would not testify. His lawyers then called a series of witnesses, mostly to tell the jury about his good character.
Among them was Robert Gamrath, a colleague of Thompson’s at the law firm Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella. He said he’d known Thompson for about 25 years and called him “one of the most honest, truthful and hardworking people I know.”
He also called Thompson “a great strategic thinker but not a detail person,” and he said Thompson would often have to rely on others to help him meet deadlines.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Netols followed up by asking whether Thompson was “so disorganized that he would unknowingly sign things and not know the contents?” Gamrath said, “it could be, on occasion, yes.”
Thompson’s attorneys have presented the unflattering portrait of the sitting alderperson as a messy, flustered tax procrastinator as a defense to charges he knowingly claimed improper mortgage-interest deductions on his tax returns for the years 2013 through 2017.
Thompson is the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and the grandson of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley.
The case revolves around $219,000 Thompson got from the now-shuttered Washington Federal Bank for Savings. Thompson also faces two counts alleging he lied to regulators about how much he owed the bank. His attorneys filed a motion late Thursday hoping to persuade Valderrama to acquit Thompson on those counts — a request the judge denied.
Washington Federal gave Thompson a $110,000 loan in November 2011, and additional payments of $20,000 in March 2013 and $89,000 in January 2014, according to Thompson’s indictment. He made one $389.58 payment in February 2012 but paid no interest. He settled the debt with a payment of the principal amount borrowed, $219,000, in December 2018.
When the bank failed, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. turned Thompson’s loan over to Planet Home Lending, which sent him a statement in February 2018 that said he owed $269,120 in principal. Thompson called a customer service line on Feb. 23, 2018.
“I borrowed $100,000, and it actually never was able to close the loan … I have no idea where the 269 number comes from,” Thompson said.
Then, on March 1, 2018, Thompson also told two FDIC contractors he had borrowed $110,000. The two conversations are the bases for the first two counts of Thompson’s indictment.
The now-former FDIC contractors took the stand Thursday at Thompson’s trial. And defense attorney Chris Gair scored key points when he asked them about the actual text of the two counts alleging Thompson lied. Gair said to one, John Holly, that “Mr. Thompson never told you ‘I only owe $110,000 and no other amount.’”
Holly’s response: “I don’t recall him saying that.”
“When squarely asked about the precise false statement charged in the indictment, Holly expressly disavowed that it occurred,” Gair wrote in his motion Thursday night.
The other contractor, Daniel Newell, also agreed with Gair that Thompson didn’t say he “only” owed $110,000. As for the $269,120, Newell said Thompson “disputed his balance.”