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Judge denies motions by Burke and co-defendants, clears racketeering case to move forward


A federal judge on Monday denied all pretrial motions on the merits filed by Ald’s attorneys. Edward M. Burke and his co-defendants in the once-powerful politician’s criminal case, finally paving the way for a possible trial.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow wrote that the combined motions “would require this court to dismiss nearly all of the charges in the indictment against all of the defendants.” But Dow wrote that the motions “are largely on the strength of the evidence” and should be considered by an investigator like a jury.

“It is the role of an investigator to assess whether the government has proven the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, not this court at the oral argument stage,” the judge wrote.

Burke’s three-year-old racketeering case was bogged down in part by the hundreds of pages of preliminary motions first filed in August 2020. Among other things, Burke’s attorneys alleged that prosecutors hid crucial information to the Chicago Chief Federal Judge as they sought to tap into the town hall phone lines as well as Burke’s cellphone.

Now the judge’s decision means the case could finally move forward.

Federal prosecutors pushed for a trial date at a recent status hearing, telling the judge “there is a public interest in the trial here and that this trial date be set quickly.”

The judge declined to set a trial date, but that discussion could continue at another status hearing scheduled for July 12. Judges at Dirksen’s federal courthouse worked through a backlog of trials created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dow pointed to defendants who remained in jail awaiting trial, unlike Burke.

The judge told lawyers that Burke’s trial “will be next year, to be honest.”

That means it could coincide with – or even follow – next year’s municipal elections. Burke won re-election in February 2019 despite an attempted extortion charge filed against him the previous month. A grand jury returned his racketeering indictment later, in May 2019.

The charges allege Burke used his city council seat to direct business to his private law firm in schemes involving the Old Post Office, a Burger King at 41st Street and Pulaski Road, and a project redevelopment on the northwest side.

The case against Burke was built in part with evidence collected by the Elder Ald. Dany Solis (25th), who was charged with corruption but cooperated with the feds and may ultimately see the charge against him dismissed.

Among those who have publicly lobbied for Burke’s trial is Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who in 2019 brought the Burke scandal to the headlines all the way to the mayor’s office. She has yet to officially announce whether she will run again next year.