Jurors picked, opening statements next in the trial of Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson
He’s charged with filing false federal income tax returns for 2013-2017 and lying to regulators about how much he owed Washington Federal Bank for Savings in Bridgeport.
One of them is a railroad worker. Another is a furniture store sales associate. There’s an emergency medical technician among them. And at least three of them teach.
But together, they will help decide the fate of a member of the city’s most storied political family as the jurors hearing the federal tax case against Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson.
Opening statements are set to begin in the case Tuesday morning, after lawyers and U.S. District Judge Franklin Valderrama spent a full day Monday at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse selecting 12 jurors and four alternates to hear the evidence.
Thompson — the grandson of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley — is the first member of his family to go on trial, and he is the first sitting alderman to face trial in more than two decades. Still, hardly any of the potential jurors questioned Monday said they had heard or read anything about the case.
They answered questions for the judge on the 25th floor of the Dirksen building. Down the hall, members of the public and the media watched the proceedings on a video and audio stream in the building’s ceremonial courtroom due to COVID-19 restrictions. Thompson’s wife and siblings also watched the proceedings from the ceremonial courtroom.
Thompson’s wife, Kathleen Thompson, signed the tax returns at issue in her husband’s trial.
One potential juror said he had served on a federal grand jury back in the 1990s, but he apparently remembered little about the experience. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Netols, the lead prosecutor in Thompson’s case, said he returned “some very large” cases out of the same grand jury, including one that “dominated the news for years.”
That man was not chosen to serve on Thompson’s jury.
Valderrama declined to dismiss for cause a man who apparently told lawyers at sidebar he is “a fan of and proud of the Daley family.” But he did not make the final cut, meaning prosecutors likely used a peremptory challenge to remove him from the pool of alternates.
In the end, a 12-member panel of four men and eight women were chosen to hear Thompson’s case. They included the railroad worker, the EMT and the sales associate. There is also a part-time music teacher, a high school chemistry teacher and a physical education teacher. Another said he works for the secretary of state.
Four male alternates were also chosen.
Thompson was charged in April 2021 with filing false federal income tax returns for the years 2013 through 2017. He is also charged with lying to federal regulators in early 2018 about the amount of money he owed Washington Federal Bank for Savings in Bridgeport.
The bank’s president, John F. Gembara, was found dead in December 2017 in the $1 million Park Ridge home of his bank customer and friend, Marek Matczuk. The bank was shut down by federal regulators the same month. That’s when investigators began unraveling what’s been labeled a “massive fraud scheme” resulting in the disappearance of nearly $90 million.
The investigation has so far led to federal criminal charges against 15 people, including Thompson.
Thompson’s indictment says he received three payments totaling $219,000 from the bank between 2011 and 2014 through a purported loan and other unsecured payments. The feds say he made only one payment on the loan but failed to pay any interest. Then, after the bank was shut down, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. tried to collect the money from Thompson, and he allegedly lied about how much he owed.
Defense attorney Chris Gair, a former federal prosecutor, has said that Thompson didn’t pay interest on the Washington Federal loan because he expected to refinance the debt with the mortgages on his home and rental property and repeatedly tried to get Gembara to approve it.
The bank gave Thompson $110,000 in November 2011, $20,000 in March 2013 and $89,000 in January 2014. But Gair said Thompson had “simply forgotten” about the second and third payments when he told regulators in February and March 2018 he only owed $110,000.
Gair said Thompson didn’t realize his accountants had used interest forms wrongly sent to him by Washington Federal to claim a mortgage-interest deduction on his income tax returns year after year. Gair has even gone so far as to write that, “Mr. Thompson’s lack of organization and lack of attention to the details of his personal financial affairs are central to his defense.”