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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Feds release sweetheart deal for ex-Chicago alderman turned FBI informant

A deferred prosecution agreement with Danny Solis states that he will only face a single felony bribery charge despite the many other corruption allegations against him, in exchange for his help investigating fellow Illinois politicians.

CHICAGO (CN) — The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois publicly released its deferred prosecution agreement with former Chicago Alderman Danny Solis on Tuesday, confirming what has been an open secret in Windy City politics for almost three years.

The agreement, first reached in 2018, states that the federal government will only prosecute Solis for a single felony bribery charge related to his soliciting campaign funds from an unnamed real estate developer in 2015.

It's far from the only thing prosecutors could hold him to. Solis served as a Chicago alderman from 1996 to early 2019 and was also chair of the city's zoning committee from 2009 until 2019. He was accused of numerous acts of corruption over the course of his tenure, up to and including accepting Viagra and paid sex trips to massage parlors from local business lobbyists.

"The USAO agrees that upon Mr. Solis’s complete satisfaction of his obligations contained in this agreement, including any obligations continuing after the deferred prosecution period, it will not prosecute him for offenses occurring in the Northern District of Illinois and relating to any of the conduct described in the Information... or otherwise disclosed by Mr. Solis to the USAO prior to the execution of this agreement, related to his actions or omissions as a public official," the agreement states.

The single-charge deal is also a far cry from the 14 bribery and extortion charges Chicago alderman and former finance committee chair Ed Burke currently faces, or the 23 racketeering charges federal prosecutors brought against former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in March. Both men, former allies of Solis, allegedly enticed or coerced developers to funnel business to their private law firms in exchange for building permits and/or favorable changes to the city's zoning ordinance. They also allegedly gave kickbacks to Solis in exchange for his help, as the zoning committee chair, in their schemes.

The deal released Tuesday indicates that it was Solis' help in building the federal cases against his former allies that won him relative leniency from the office of the U.S. Attorney's Office. From 2016 to 2017, Solis worked with the FBI to secretly record conversations he had with Burke and Madigan, at one point even wearing a wire.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday, but she called Solis' actions "unconscionable" once the extent of his FBI cooperation came to light. 

Even arrested former Chicago Alderman Ambrosio Medrano, who Solis replaced as representative of the 25th Ward and who was convicted on his own corruption charges in 1996 and 2014, called Solis “a snitch.”

Solis' reward for snitching is that while federal prosecutors were throwing the book at Burke in 2019, he went uncharged, a free man retired and living off a $95,000 city pension.

Given the alleged bribery outlined in the deal took place in 2015, even this single charge would ordinarily be barred by the five-year statute of limitations on federal bribery cases. However, Chicago criminal defense attorney Gal Pissetzky, who specializes in public corruption charges, pointed out that in the language of the deal, Solis waived his right to a statute of limitations defense.

“He must have agreed to a waiver of the statute of limitations… He won’t even be able to raise that issue at court,” Pissetzky said.

That's one stick to all the agreement's carrots. There's another: the deal is reliant on Solis' "continued cooperation" with federal prosecutors.

"This agreement is based upon the substantial assistance Mr. Solis has provided to law enforcement to date, and as described below, is expressly conditioned upon his continued cooperation... Mr. Solis agrees that he will fully and truthfully cooperate in any matter in which he is called upon to cooperate by the USAO. This cooperation shall include providing complete and truthful information in any investigation and pre-trial preparation, and complete and truthful testimony in any criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding," the agreement states.

The U.S. attorney's office did not immediately return a request for comment on the matter.

Solis' arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday.

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Categories / Criminal, Government, Politics, Regional

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