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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Longterm Police Committee Chairman Pleads Guilty to Bribery

Chicago alderman pleads guilty to corruption charges; says he took bribe from developer
The Associated Press - February 1, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago alderman has pleaded guilty to bribery and tax fraud charges and resigned his seat. Isaac Carothers admitted Monday that he accepted $40,000 worth of home improvements from a developer in exchange for pushing a zoning change through the City Council. Hours later, the 55-year-old Carothers submitted a letter resigning his post on the council, where he was the longtime chairman of the police and fire committee. Prosecutors have agreed to a 28-month prison sentence as long as Carothers continues to cooperate with their investigation. That's well below federal sentencing guidelines. Authorities have accused developer Calvin Boender of paying the bribes. Boender has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges.


Chicago Alderman Isaac Carothers pleads guilty to corruption - February 1, 2010

(AP) — The chairman of the Chicago City Council's police and fire committee pleaded guilty Monday to taking $40,000 worth of home improvements in exchange for a zoning change. Alderman Issac Carothers said through his attorneys he would resign from the City Council immediately and testify as a government witness at the upcoming trial of developer Calvin Boender, who he said paid for new painting, windows, storm doors and air conditioning at his home. "In his heart, he deeply regrets what he has done here," defense attorney Jeffrey Steinback told reporters while Carothers stood by in silence. Carothers will be sentenced to 28 months in prison in return for his cooperation — half the low end of the sentencing guideline range. He must also pay $17,773 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and forfeit $40,000. Boender's trial is due to begin March 8. He has pleaded not guilty wire and mail fraud, and obstruction of justice. Steinback told reporters that Carothers had initially asked Boender how much he would be billed for the home improvements. But he accepted them without charge as a reward for pushing through the zoning change, Steinback said. Carothers admitted that he pushed through a zoning change in the Galewood Yards neighborhood on Chicago's West Side at Boender's request. Boender allegedly wanted the neighborhood rezoned from a manufacturing area to commercial and residential use. According to the signed plea agreement, Carothers also got Boender to contribute money to an unnamed candidate for state representative. Specifically, Carothers pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of tax fraud. Meanwhile, 10 current and former Chicago aldermen urged the court to bar Boender's lawyers from making them testify at the developer's fraud and obstruction of justice trial, scheduled for March 8. Boender's lawyers have subpoenaed the 10 aldermen as witnesses. Chicago Corporation Counsel Mara Georges told Dow in court papers that if forced to take the stand the aldermen most likely will be asked why they voted in favor of the zoning change sought by Boender. She said that would violate the principle of legislative immunity. Under that principle, lawmakers cannot be compelled to testify in court about their legislative activities. The aldermen are William Banks, Ed Burke, Walter Burnett, Emma Mitts, Ricardo Munoz, Patrick J. O'Connor, Helen Schiller, Eugene Schulter, Ed Smith and Bernard Stone. The City Council has been plagued by corruption for decades as part of what critics have described as a "culture of corruption' in Illinois. Dozens of aldermen have been convicted. The most recent before Carothers was former Alderman Arenda Troutman who last February was sentenced to four years for taking payoffs to push through zoning changes and hiding them from the tax collector. One of the city's most prominent former aldermen, Edward R. Vrdolyak, pleaded guilty last year to a mail fraud scheme involving the sale of a Near North Side building but his case was not related to the council. He was sentenced to five years of probation but a federal appeals panel recently ordered him re-sentenced.

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