Prosecutors revealed new details in Chicago Ald. Ed Burke’s federal corruption case on Wednesday, saying the wiretaps made in the case provide powerful evidence of his involvement in alleged criminal activity.
The wiretaps also allegedly captured Burke making anti-Semitic remarks, according to a 227-page response released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday.
Just hours after Burke attended the first in-person meeting of the Chicago City Council since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the feds released a new response in their racketeering case against the long-time alderman.
In that sometimes-heavily-redacted document, investigators detailed how they’ve been receiving cooperation from former Ald. Danny Solis in their case against Burke. Prosecutors also deny what Burke’s lawyers have repeatedly alleged: that he’s been unfairly targeted in the case.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
In Nov. 2018, Burke’s office at City Hall, as well as his ward office, were raided by FBI agents. That kicked off the start of a corruption investigation against the alderman, who is accused of using his position on the city council to steer business to his private law firm.
Documents show details of Solis’ cooperation in the investigation, with federal agents tapping six phone lines at Burke’s office as the chairman of the Finance Department. Agents also monitored his cell phone for nine months, according to the documents.
The documents allege that Burke looked to specifically profit from the renovation of the city’s old post office, but go even further, saying that Burke was recorded saying “well, you know as well as I do, Jews are Jews and they’ll deal with Jews to the exclusion of everybody else unless…unless there is a reason for them to use a Christian.”
State Sens. Sara Feigenholtz and Laura Fine, the only two Jewish members of the state senate, responded forcefully to the comments allegedly made by Burke.
“When he thought no one was listening, Ed Burke revealed his true self,” the senators said in a statement. “Simply said, Ald. Burke’s remarks smack of blatant anti-Semitism and are both ignorant and repugnant. For starters, he owes an apology to the Jewish community.”
Burke was asked about the conversations and documents by NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern as he left City Hall on Wednesday, but refused to comment on the case.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the matter in her press conference following the council meeting.
“By his own words in wiretapped conversations, Alderman Burke said and did things that were not only improper, but seemed to be illegal,” Lightfoot said. “He’s entitled to a presumption of innocent, as all defendants are. I’ve called on him to resign, and he’s obviously not done that, but I just think there is no place in public life for his work.”
Burke’s lawyers say that in spite of the volumes of phone calls detailed in the documents that “the government came up empty-handed, and yet has zealously pressed on.”
Prosecutors fired back in the documents, adding that their findings “revealed Burke to be thoroughly corrupt and worthy of prosecution,” and that the conversations reveal that “again and again, Burke shamelessly tied official action to his law firm’s receipt of business.”
Lightfoot says that she hopes the trial of Burke, who has steadfastly refused to resign his office, begins to move forward more quickly so that residents in his ward can be assured of a conclusion to the case.
“The residents of his district deserve for Ald. Burke to have a trial date, and soon, and that case needs to move forward much more expeditiously than it has,” she said.