chicago politics

Here's how Ed Burke's sentence compares with George Ryan's, Rod Blagojevich's and other aldermen's

Burke, 80, is among a long list of Illinois politicians, including a number of alderman, who've been convicted on charges related to corruption.

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A judge on Monday handed prison time to former Chicago Ald. Ed Burke, who was arguably the most powerful member of the Chicago City Council for decades, as he was sentenced on corruption charges.

Burke was sentenced to two years behind bars and a $2 million fine after he was convicted of illegally using his power to win private law business from developers to threatening one of Chicago’s cultural icons for his own benefit.

Burke, 80, is among a long list of Illinois politicians, including a number of aldermen, who've been convicted on charges related to corruption. However, the crimes themselves have varied widely, as have the punishments.

Here's how Burke's sentence compares with those given to other elected officials:

Rod Blagojevich

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was removed from office in 2009 after he was indicted on charges that he tried to solicit contributions and other favors in exchange for the Senate seat of then president-elect Barack Obama.

He was convicted of making false statements in Aug. 2010, and in a subsequent retrial was found guilty on 17 counts, including wire fraud and attempted extortion, in 2011.

With his wife and daughters standing beside him, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich spoke in front of his residence Wednesday. NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern was there.

 In Dec. 2011, Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. He served more than half of the sentence before it was commuted by former President Donald Trump in Feb. 2020.

A previous report on Blajojevich's commutation can be viewed in the player above.

George Ryan

George Ryan, another former Illinois governor, served five years for corruption in a case spurred by the 1994 highway crash that killed six children of Scott and Janet Willis. The truck driver who caused the accident had received a license through a bribe from a staffer in Ryan's office when he was Secretary of State.

In 2014, Ryan told the Chicago Sun-Times he prays for the Willis children daily but feels no responsibility for their deaths. The former governor was released from prison in July 2013.

During a 2015 talk, Ryan said serving time on corruption charges has given him a new perspective on the criminal justice system.

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows in his political life, and he discussed it all and more with NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern in a 1-on-1 interview.

“Justice is supposed to be blind, but the fact is most people are blind about the justice system,” Ryan said. “Those of us who have been there and are coming out of prison wondering what is going on. There are people concerned about what is going to happen to us, but I am not sure they care that much.”

Ryan was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $603,348.

Ed Vrdolyak

Former Ald. Edward Vrdolyak pleaded guilty in March 2019 to a tax charge alleging that he obstructed an IRS investigation into payments to and from his friend and associate Daniel Soso related to Illinois’ $9.3 billion settlement with tobacco companies in the late 1990s.

A federal judge sentenced Vrdolyak to 18 months in prison in December 2020, but he did not begin serving his sentence until November 2021 after several delays related to the pandemic.

In 2022, he was released from prison and living at a halfway house in Chicago.

Ricardo Muñoz 

Former Chicago Ald. Ricardo Munoz was sentenced to 13 months in prison for spending thousands of dollars from a political fund he chaired to buy iPhones, sports tickets and clothes, among other personal items.

In 2022, U.S. Judge John Kness ordered the former alderman to 18 months of supervised release following his time incarcerated.

Munoz was charged with 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, and subsequently pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $38,000 from the political fund.

Willie Cochran 

Former 20th Ward Ald. Willie Cochran was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges in 2019.

Cochran pleaded guilty in March to one felony count of wire fraud for spending campaign funds on personal purchases, including his daughter's college tuition. The admission ended the former police officer's City Council career.

Following Cochran's prison sentence, the judge ordered two years of supervised release. 

Patrick Daley Thompson

Patrick Daley Thompson, a former alderman, received a sentence of four months in federal prison, for cheating on his taxes and lying to regulators in the federal criminal case that cost him his seat on the City Council.

Thompson is the grandson of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Thompson’s 2022 conviction revolved around $219,000 he received between 2011 and 2014 from Washington Federal. The bank was shut down in December 2017 amid allegations of massive fraud, days after its president was found dead in a bank customer’s $1 million home.

Thompson made one $389.58 payment on the loan in February 2012 but paid no interest, according to the feds. After Washington Federal failed in 2017, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. handed Thompson’s loan over to Planet Home Lending.

Thompson falsely claimed deductions for mortgage interest purportedly paid to Washington Federal on his tax returns for the years 2013 through 2017. Thompson also lied in early 2018 to a Planet Home Lending customer service representative and two FDIC contractors about how much he borrowed.

Carrie Austin

Former Alderwoman Carrie Austin has faced a federal bribery indictment since July 2021, though her trial has yet to take place. The charges allege she took home improvements materials — sump pumps, a dehumidifier and kitchen cabinets — as kickbacks from a developer overseeing a $50 million development in her ward.

In November 2022, the alderwoman's lawyers told a judge she was “not medically fit to stand trial” and that they will seek to have her prosecution put on hold.

Most recently, in February, a federal judge said he would not dismiss the indictment against Austin.

NBC Chicago/Chicago Sun-Times Wire
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