Feds finally charge former Ald. Danny Solis — ‘Alderman A’ — with bribery

The bribery count leveled against Solis in a one-page, lightly detailed document at least confirms that Solis will face public charges. A lengthy investigation into his own alleged misdeeds prompted him to turn on some of the state’s most powerful politicians.

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Alderman Danny Solis during the Chicago City Council meeting in November 2016.

Sun-Times file photo

Three years after his secret cooperation with federal investigators became public knowledge, turning him into “Alderman A,” federal prosecutors have finally filed a criminal charge against former longtime Chicago Ald. Danny Solis (25th).

The bribery count leveled against Solis in a one-page, lightly detailed document at least confirms that Solis will face public charges. A lengthy investigation into his own alleged misdeeds prompted him to turn on some of the state’s most powerful politicians.

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Federal prosecutors have used evidence gathered by Solis, 72, to secure racketeering indictments against Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) and, more recently, former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Solis is also involved in the indictment filed against political operative Roberto Caldero, who recently made plans to plead guilty but insisted on publicly stating, “at no time in the past or in the future would I be wearing a wire.”

The charge against Solis could force him back into public view with an appearance at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. However, pandemic protocols allow for remote hearings by phone or video. Madigan, who was indicted March 2, has so far managed to avoid a public appearance at the courthouse. Solis might be able to do the same.

Solis’ attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. Solis has previously told associates he hopes to one day be hailed as a hero for any part he played in bringing down Chicago’s power structure.

But Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently said she was “deeply offended” that Solis could manage to avoid prison time through a deal he cut with the feds.

The charge against Solis alleges he agreed to accept campaign contributions between July and September 2015 in exchange for amendments to a zoning ordinance sought by an unnamed developer.

A litany of alleged misconduct by Solis was revealed in a bombshell FBI affidavit first obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times in January 2019. The document, filed in federal court in May 2016, alleged that Solis, once the Council’s powerful zoning chair, “received a flow of private benefits” from people in exchange for official action.

For example, benefits he allegedly received from Caldero included Viagra, prostitution services and campaign contributions. The affidavit also alleged Solis “agreed to take action in his official capacity as an alderman for private benefits directed to Michael Madigan.”

The feds secretly recorded Solis, Madigan and others during a meeting at Madigan’s law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, in August 2014.

Burke’s lawyers have said the feds confronted Solis in June 2016, and he agreed to cooperate with investigators “almost immediately.” They’ve also said Solis entered into a so-called deferred-prosecution agreement with the feds on Jan. 3, 2019. That was the same day that Chicagoans learned of the first criminal charges filed against Burke.

A deferred-prosecution deal could help Solis avoid prison.

The Sun-Times first revealed Solis’ cooperation in January 2019. Since then, his undercover work has been featured in some of Chicago’s most high-profile public corruption indictments, which typically refer to him as “Alderman A.”

Burke told Solis “the cash register has not rung yet” and later asked him “did we land the … tuna?” as Burke tried to leverage his own power on the council to steer business to his private law firm, according to Burke’s indictment.

In the Madigan indictment, Solis played a role in alleged schemes to transfer a Chinatown property from the state to the city of Chicago to clear the way for a development, as well as to place Solis on a state board following his retirement from the City Council.

Solis was appointed to the Council in 1996, replacing Ambrosio Medrano, who resigned after accepting bribes from an FBI mole.

When Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Solis, then executive director of the United Neighborhood Organization of Chicago, Solis pledged to restore voters’ confidence after the Medrano disgrace.

“They’re disappointed, as I am, in what happened,” Solis said. “But we’re going to roll up our sleeves now and take charge. … I’m going to do a good job. Mark my words. Keep your eye on me.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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