Ex-Sen. Roland Burris accused of shake down in court documents

SHARE Ex-Sen. Roland Burris accused of shake down in court documents
SHARE Ex-Sen. Roland Burris accused of shake down in court documents

Former U.S. Sen. Roland Burris tried to “shake down” a business for a $250,000 a year job as a financial consultant in return for Burris’ help promoting the business’ products to the U.S. military, court documents in a trial due to start next week allege.

The explosive allegations emerged Friday at a hearing ahead of the trial of South Sider C. Gregory Turner, who is accused of illegally trying to help lift U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s regime.

Burris is expected to be a key prosecution witness against Turner. But Turner’s lawyers say the fact that the feds never charged the former Democratic senator in connection with the alleged shakedown scheme means Burris is “biased” in their favor.

Defense attorney James Tunick said documents provided to him by the government on Thursday allege Burris, 77, was still in office when he “offered to promote an individual business to the United States military in exchange for $250,000 a year when he got out of office.”

The allegations were made to the FBI by an informant whom U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo identified only by the initials “G.W.L” after prosecutors strenuously objected to his real name being released.

Prosecutors also wanted to keep the “sensitive” allegations against Burris under wraps, but Bucklo eventually allowed Turner’s lawyers to reveal them in open court.

Several other tantalizing facts were revealed in a sidebar conversation during the proceeding Friday, according to a transcript. The same informant who provided the government information about Burris also helped the government build its successful political corruption case in 2012 against former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno and ex-Ald. Ambrosio Medrano. While the informant was not named in court, his initials, GWL, match those of Gerald W. Lombardi, who was a codefendant with Moreno and Medrano in one of the cases against them.

A government prosecutor also revealed during the sidebar that the feds have talked to Burris about the shake-down allegations — on Wednesday for the first time. It wasn’t revealed what Burris said.

Burris, who was never charged with any wrongdoing, did not respond to calls seeking comment Friday. But this isn’t the first time he’s come under federal scrutiny.

RELATED:Burris revelation raises more questions in already puzzling case

Evidence from FBI and congressional probes of his hugely controversial 2009 appointment to the Senate by disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich are also likely to factor in Turner’s trial next week.

That evidence includes a wire-tapped phone conversation between the former governor’s brother, Robert Blagojevich, and Burris, prosecutors said Friday.

But Tunick said that the previously undisclosed alleged shake down raises “very serious” questions about Burris’ “misconduct” in office and his credibility on the stand.

Michael Irving Leonard, also representing Turner, added that prosecutors’ decision not to charge Burris means Burris will now be motivated to “show favoritism” when he testifies against Turner.

Prosecutors Barry Jonas and Georgia Alexakis acknowledged the details of the alleged shakedown are new but denied handing them over only on the eve of Turner’s trial in an attempt to cripple Turner’s defense.

Turner is accused of teaming up with co-defendant Prince Asiel Ben Israel — who has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven months in prison — to illegally lobby Chicago politicians in an attempt to overturn U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe’s ruling elite.

His lawyers previously alleged that State Sen. Donne Trotter, another witness against Turner, took a $2,000 cash bribe from Ben Israel as part of an FBI sting.

They also tried and failed to have Mugabe deposed in Turner’s defense during a meeting of the United Nations in New York this week.

Burris Sidebar by wamster44

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