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Former Chicago city councilor charged with bribery

Federal prosecutors charged ex-Chicago alderman Danny Solis with a single bribery count Friday evening, years after he worked as an FBI asset in City Hall.

CHICAGO (CN) — Federal prosecutors charged ex-Chicago Alderman Danny Solis, once an FBI informant and the head of the city's Zoning Committee, with a single count of bribery on Friday evening.

The single-page filing from the US Attorney's Office accuses Solis of taking campaign contributions from an unnamed real estate developer in 2015 while Solis headed the Zoning Committee. In exchange for these contributions, the charge alleges, Solis would try to make amendments to the city's zoning ordinances to benefit the developer.

Solis, 72, spent more than two decades as alderman for Chicago's 25th Ward. He announced he would not seek re-election as alderman in November 2018, only two months before a federal indictment against Chicago 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke revealed he had helped the FBI build their federal corruption cases against Burke and former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. The news that Solis was a mole shook City Hall.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called it "unconscionable" at the time. Even arrested former Chicago alderman Ambrosio Medrano, who was convicted on his own corruption charges in 1996 and 2014, called Solis "a snitch."

Since Solis' actions came to light, both Burke and Madigan have been federally charged. Prosecutors handed Burke, Chicago's longest-serving alderman and former head of the city's Finance Committee, 14 charges of criminal bribery and extortion in 2019. They gave Madigan, who besides acting as the state's House Speaker for 36 years, was also Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party for over 20 years, 22 charges of racketeering, bribery and fraud this past March.

Both men stand accused of using their political clout to coerce real estate developers and other companies to retain their private law firms' services when doing business with Chicago or Illinois. Burke also allegedly threatened to oppose a planned entrance fee increase by the city's Field Museum of Natural History, unless the museum offered an internship position to his friend's kid.

Madigan, meanwhile, lies at the center of a yearslong bribery scheme by Illinois' largest energy company Commonwealth Edison, or ComEd. ComEd admitted to bribing numerous state legislators between 2011 and 2019 in order to get laws passed which benefitted the company's bottom line. ComEd reported consistently high-earning years from 2013 to 2019, turning over $4.7 billion in profits.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Court documents filed by Burke's attorneys in 2020 allege that Solis' actions to help secure the cases against these men — including wearing a wire between 2016 and 2017 to secretly record conversations with both of them — earned him a delayed prosecution on his own corruption charges. As head of the Zoning Committee between 2009 and 2018, many of the bribery and extortion schemes allegedly undertaken by Madigan and Burke required Solis' help to succeed. Burke's indictment lists several incidents where he offered building permit assistance to developers, vis-a-vis Solis' position, in exchange for them hiring his law firm. Solis would allegedly get kick-backs from Burke and Madigan in return for his help.

An affidavit obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times in 2019 indicated federal authorities also believed Solis guilty of a separate litany of corruption going back to 2014: Using campaign funds to pay for his son's private school education, offering jobs to developers' family members in exchange for campaign contributions and promising Chinese developers his assistance in their hotel project if they hired Madigan's law firm, among other more lurid accusations.

The US Attorney's Office has not yet confirmed whether the delayed prosecution allegation is true. If it is, Solis will likely not see jail time, and may even get to keep his annual city pension.

“He has gotten a deal where he’s not going to be looking at any jail time... I’m deeply offended by that." Lightfoot said in March.

Solis himself could not immediately be reached for comment.

Besides the single page filing, no other documents have been filed in Solis' case, and no arraignment date has yet been set.

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