In 2003, Ald. Rey Colon (35th) was elected to the City Council after defeating an incumbent aldermen backed by the powerful political organization of then-Ald. Dick Mell (33rd).
Now, Colon is facing a challenge of a different kind with the potential to undermine his re-election campaign.
Colon said Monday he’s hired a criminal defense attorney after being arrested by Illinois State Police last week for allegedly driving drunk on the Eisenhower Expressway without a valid driver’s license.
Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police, said Colon was driving a 2006 black Honda SUV when he was pulled over shortly before 1 a.m. Friday while driving westbound on the Eisenhower near Homan.
“The vehicle appeared to be kind of weaving between lanes before attempting to exit at Homan,” Bond said.
“The Honda was pulled over for failure to signal and improper lane usage. He was cooperative with field sobriety tests and transported to the 11th District for processing. He was given citations for DUI, no driver’s license, improper lane usage and failure to signal when changing lanes. When they pulled up the records, they found that the alderman’s driver’s license had expired less than six months ago.”
Colon refused to discuss the circumstances of his arrest, nor would he say where he was coming from, how much he had to drink or whether or not he refused to take a breathalyzer.
During a break in Monday’s meeting of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, Colon would only say that he has hired attorney Thomas Needham to defend him in the case.
“I have every confidence that the legal system is going to come out with a just result, but I’m not at liberty to talk really. It’s new. And I was advised not to really comment on it, given the fact that it’s pending and we don’t have all of the results yet,” said Colon, 53.
“Did I make a mistake? We will see. Right now, I’m not at liberty to talk about the case at all. My legal counsel has advised me to really let folks know I have sought legal counsel and to allow the legal process to unfold at this time. I was on the Eisenhower, but I can’t really speak to it at this time.”
Needham said he was hired after a fifteen-minute phone conversation with Colon and was not yet familiar with the facts of the case. Needham served as legal counsel to the Chicago Police Department under then-Supt. Terry Hillard.
Colon is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 15. If convicted on all counts, he faces more than $10,000 in fines and up to one year in jail.
The DUI arrest comes less than seven months before the aldermanic election.
Asked whether he plans to apologize to this constituents, Colon said, “No. Not really. I have every confidence in the legal process and that justice will prevail in this matter. … I don’t want to say anything that’s gonna impede the case one way or the other. There’s nothing right now. The evidence hasn’t been brought forward so there’s nothing I can comment on at this time.”
The answer was the same when Colon was asked whether or not he believes his action last Thursday night put other motorists or pedestrians in jeopardy.
Colon is the former executive director of the Logan Square YMCA who was elected to the City Council in 2003 after knocking off then-incumbent Ald. Vilma Colom (35th).
The victory was significant because Vilma Colom had the formidable support of Mell, a longtime alderman who has since retired and been replaced by his daughter. Mell earned the nickname the “Old Gringo” for his penchant for meddling in Hispanic politics.
During a 2007 re-match, Vilma Colom sent out mailers highlighting Rey Colon’s arrests on charges of drunk driving and driving with a suspended license. She also accused him of doing the bidding of developers who gave to his campaign.
Colon responded by filing a complaint with the state elections board charging Colom with spreading lies about him. But, he did acknowledge the arrests more than a decade earlier, adding, “I regret it.”
He denied being beholden to developers, saying he had pushed hard to develop blighted areas in the Northwest Side ward and to create historic districts to protect landmark buildings.
Colon was one of only three aldermen who dared to vote against the 75-year, $1.15 billion lease that privatized Chicago’s 36,000 parking meters. He also opposed another one of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s most controversial decisions: the ill-fated plan to build a new Children’s Museum in Grant Park.