Lightfoot ‘deeply offended’ by deferred prosecution deal keeping FBI mole Danny Solis out of prison
“This is a man who exploited his position ... to enrich himself, attempting to enrich others,” Lightfoot said. “There’s got to be consequences and accountability for that. It’s not enough for him to simply walk away. Sail off into the sunset. That sends the wrong message.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday she finds it “unconscionable” that former Zoning Committee chairman-turned-FBI mole Danny Solis was “walking around on a wire for years ... continuing to wheel and deal” and is deeply offended his deal with the feds will keep Solis out of prison.
A former federal prosecutor, Lightfoot condemned the deferred prosecution agreement Solis has reached with the U.S. Attorney’s office — at least, according to the legal team for indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th). Solis recorded dozens of conversations with Burke over two years to help the government build their corruption case.
“The fact that you had a sitting alderman walking around on a wire for years is unconscionable, as far as I’m concerned. Unconscionable. And while he was continuing, it looks like, to wheel and deal as chair of a very important Zoning Committee. It gives me great, great pause,” Lightfoot told the Sun-Times editorial board.
“He has gotten a deal where he’s not going to be looking at any jail time, as I understand it. … I’m deeply offended by that. This is a man who exploited his position ... to enrich himself, attempting to enrich others. There’s got to be consequences and accountability for that. It’s not enough for him to simply walk away. Sail off into the sunset. That sends the wrong message.”
Solis refused to comment on the mayor’s remarks.
In January 2019, the Sun-Times blew the lid off one of the biggest corruption scandals in Chicago history when it disclosed Solis had worn a wire to record more than a dozen private conversations as movers and shakers sought official city actions from Burke.
The Sun-Times then reported Solis agreed to cooperate with the feds only after being confronted with allegations of his own wrongdoing. Those allegations were compiled, in part, when the feds tapped his phone.
He stepped down as Zoning Committee chairman after the Sun-Times disclosed the sordid details, including trips to massage parlors, a constant supply of Viagra, free weekend use of an Indiana farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey for a graduation party for Solis’ son and a steady stream of campaign contributions.
At one point, as the feds listened in on a conversation secretly recorded by an associate of a Chinese businessman, Solis arranged a meeting with now-indicted Michael Madigan, at the time speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.
At that meeting, Madigan allegedly sought legal business for his firm, which handles property tax appeals.
Later, Solis was recorded telling the Chinese businessman he would be able to re-zone Chinatown property to allow a hotel — if the businessman hired Madigan’s law firm to do the legal work. Madigan was not present when the remark was made.
The question of whether Solis would be held accountable remained a mystery until August 2020.
That’s when Burke’s lawyers wrote in a court filing that Solis struck the agreement with federal prosecutors on Jan. 3, 2019 — the same day Chicagoans first learned Burke had been charged in an attempted extortion scheme.
A deferred-prosecution agreement would allow Solis to avoid a criminal conviction that might lead to prison time, providing he complies with the terms of the agreement, which remain unknown.
The U.S. Attorney’s office has never confirmed the existence of or details in a deferred prosecution agreement with Solis.
After exposing Solis as an FBI mole, the Sun-Times reported Solis has told associates he hopes to someday be hailed as a hero for playing a part in bringing down the power structure of Chicago and Illinois and helping unravel the political scandal.
Lightfoot was outraged by that line of thinking.
“We don’t know the enormity of his crimes. But thinks he should be hailed as a hero? ... That means he hasn’t learned his lesson. That means he has not accepted responsibility for his criminal conduct and he should not get a pass,” she said.
The mayor said she worked with cooperating informants her entire time as a federal prosecutor.
“You take into consideration the value that they’ve added in aiding other investigations. Absolutely. ... But where’s the accountability? ... There has got to be something other than a complete pass for the crimes that he’s committed.” Lightfoot said, adding: “And, of course, he shouldn’t get his pension.”