Saturday, July 8, 2006
Four former aides in the administration of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, including the man routinely described as his "longtime patronage chief," were found guilty on mail fraud and false statement charges in a prosecution brought by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Robert Sorich was head of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, an innocuous sounding cog in the city bureaucracy that was the hub of what the federal prosecutors described as a well-oiled machine to award city jobs based on political favoritism. Sorich and his chief aide, Timothy McCarthy, were convicted along with Sorich's best friend, Patrick Slattery, and John Sullivan, both of whom were officials in the city's Streets and Sanitation Department. A number of top staff from the Daley administration, including four from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, pled guilty and testified against the defendants.
Although the government alleged widespread corruption in hiring, the indictment took a more limited approach, charging mail fraud/right of honest services for the hiring of specific individuals, thereby keeping the case focused on particular instances of corrupt actions. One count was dismissed during trial because the prosecutors failed to introduce sufficient evidence of the mailing element, an easily overlooked requirement for all prosecutions under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1341 (see earlier post here). Sorich was found guilty of two counts of mail fraud, related to the hiring of a house drain inspector and Water Department foreman, while McCarthy's convictions related to the house drain inspector and a 19-year old building inspector; Sorich was found not guilty on the building inspector count and a count related to the hiring of a driver in the Water Department. Slattery's conviction was for one count of mail fraud related to the hiring of laborers in the Streets and Sanitation Department, while Sullivan was found guilty of lying to the government about preferential treatment given to applicants based on their political ties but not guilty of a second false statement count.
The question after the verdict is whether the government will be able to move any higher into the Daley administration in its investigation. At this point, the reaction from defense counsel has been to continue to assert their client's innocence, but after a conviction there is a chance that one or more will agree to cooperate with the government. And for those involved in the patronage operation who have not been charged yet, the first Assistant U.S. Attorney said rather ominously about whether the investigation is continuing, "I can't really say anything more than 'stay tuned.'" A Chicago Tribune article (here) has a thorough review of the case, including a detailed timeline of the six-week trial and the mechanics of awarding patronage jobs. (ph)