Sentencing/Post Conviction

Ex-justice sought Holy Spirit compassion before sentencing of 'land the tuna' politician husband

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Ed and Anne Burke

Former Chicago Ald. Ed Burke walks with his wife, former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke, after being sentenced Monday in Chicago. Ed Burke was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $2 million for squeezing developers who needed his help for permits. (Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Former Chicago Ald. Ed Burke was sentenced Monday to two years in prison and fined $2 million for pressuring developers to use his law firm and threatening to punish a museum that ignored his goddaughter’s internship application.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall of the Northern District of Illinois said the “extremely harsh” fine was intended to deter anyone who wants to “commit public corruption by being greedy,” Law360 reports.

Faith in public officials can be eroded when people start to think, “Oh, that’s just the Chicago way,” she said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Prosecutors had initially sought a 10-year sentence. The range under federal sentencing guidelines dropped to about six to eight years in prison after Kendall determined that the amount of loss attributable to Burke’s crimes was about $215,000. Burke’s net worth is about $30 million.

Burke was convicted in December of racketeering conspiracy, bribery and attempted extortion. The sentencing followed “a rollicking trial that featured colorful wiretapped phone calls, an alderman-turned-FBI mole, and some of the most memorable quotes—such as, ‘Did we land the tuna?’—to come out of federal court in years,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Burke asked the “tuna” question when he wanted to know whether his firm had landed the work that it wanted from a company redeveloping Chicago’s main post office, according to prior coverage by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Burke was accused of threatening to withhold city financing and tax breaks for the project to win business for his firm.

Other statements by Burke included, “The cash register has not rung yet,” and, “They can go [expletive] themselves.”

Kendall remarked on letters attesting to Burke’s good works during the hearing, saying she had never seen so many of them, according to the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I don’t know how many times I read in here that you were sitting with someone who was dying” or “paying for a funeral because he heard about it on the news,” Kendall said.

One letter writer was Burke’s wife, former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who appealed to Kendall’s Catholic faith, Courthouse News Service reported.

“I pray that you call upon the Holy Spirit to give you compassion when deciding our future,” she wrote.

Remarking on Burke’s good deeds, Charles Sklarsky, a lawyer for Burke, said his client was like “a priest without a collar,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Burke’s former firm, Klafter & Burke, is now the KBC Law Group.

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