Eddie Vrdolyak says the federal indictment hanging over his head should be tossed in part because of the lost memories of people who could testify in his favor — including former Attorney General Jim Ryan.
Facing trial in about three months, the former Chicago alderman and political powerhouse filed a flurry of motions late Tuesday night. In one, defense lawyer Barry Spevack complained the charges against Vrdolyak involve conduct that is two decades old.
“In the delay at least one critical witness had passed away and two others are suffering from varying degrees of mental degeneration,” Spevack wrote, asking U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve to toss the case.
Spevack went on to name the three witnesses. Among them is Ryan, who is being pulled into a case that revolves around a deal Vrdolyak cut to get a massive piece of Illinois’ $9.3 billion legal settlement with tobacco companies in the 1990s.
Ryan could not be reached for comment Wednesday, nor could members of his family.
It’s still not clear how much Vrdolyak made off the tobacco settlement. Prosecutors have said he and co-defendant Daniel Soso “have so far received in excess of $10 million in fees.” They also told a judge in 2010 that Vrdolyak “has a guaranteed income stream of $260,000 per year . . . until 2023 from tobacco-related litigation.”
They have also said Vrdolyak “did no work on the tobacco lawsuit.”
But Vrdolyak’s lawyers insist the deal was no secret. They say he wrote a note asking a state lawyer to “inform Jim” of his interest in the litigation — “an obvious reference to then-Attorney General Jim Ryan,” Spevack wrote.
But Spevack’s filing suggests Ryan has no recollection of the note. Spevack went on to write that Ryan had heart surgery in January 2013 and showed signs of a failing memory in an interview more than a year later, in September 2014.
“He told the interviewer that when recovering from heart surgery he underwent a series of ‘mini-strokes’ that impaired his vision, mobility, speech and memory,” Spevack wrote. “Ryan could no longer recall the handwritten note . . . where defendant expressed his interest.”
The state lawyer who received the note now has dementia, Spevack wrote. And he said Jerry Solovy, a key lawyer in the litigation, died in 2011.
In a separate filing, another Vrdolyak lawyer made note of a 2001 grand jury subpoena that suggested the feds have known about the deal for 16 years. The lawyer also wrote that “Vrdolyak’s receipt of fees was well known to individuals within the State of Illinois —including the Attorney General’s Office.”
A source in the Attorney General’s office said Wednesday it has no record of Vrdolyak having any role in the litigation.
Finally, Spevack complained that Vrdolyak is “now 80 years old and even a younger man would be unable to recall incidents from up to 20 years ago.”
Vrdolyak’s trial for tax evasion and impeding the IRS is set for Sept. 10. The feds say that, as part of his deal, Vrdolyak agreed in writing to make payments to Soso. But Soso was allegedly dodging taxes. And after the IRS served Vrdolyak with a levy in 2005 demanding he pay any money owed to Soso to the IRS, Vrdolyak allegedly stopped paying Soso and told the IRS he owed Soso nothing.