Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin ‘not medically fit’ for trial, her lawyers say days after she voted on city budget

They say her medical records are “startling,” and she “cannot cooperate fully with counsel or withstand the stress of a trial.”

SHARE Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin ‘not medically fit’ for trial, her lawyers say days after she voted on city budget
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) as she received oxygen while attending a Chicago City Council meeting in October. Lawyers for Austin say her health should postpone her prosecution on federal bribery charges.

Lawyers for Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) say her health should postpone her prosecution on federal bribery charges.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Lawyers for indicted Chicago Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) told a judge Friday she is “not medically fit to stand trial” and that they will seek to have her prosecution put on hold.

Austin, who is in her early 70s, has faced a federal bribery indictment since July 2021. She is accused of taking home improvement materials — sump pumps, a dehumidifier and kitchen cabinets — as kickbacks from a developer overseeing a $50 million development in her ward.

There has been little progress in her case in the 16 months that have passed. Pretrial motions are due next week, but attorneys Thomas Anthony Durkin and Joshua Herman moved Friday to extend that deadline, pointing in part to Austin’s medical condition.

Though they did not reveal specifics, the lawyers said Austin “cannot cooperate fully with counsel or withstand the stress of a trial.” They said they have given prosecutors 50 out of more than 700 pages of medical records documenting Austin’s troubles.

The defense attorneys called the records “startling to a layman.”

They also said that, by Nov. 18, they intend to file a motion to sever Austin from her co-defendant, chief of staff Chester Wilson. They say they want to stay the proceedings against Austin.

Austin and Wilson have each pleaded not guilty.

Austin has been attending City Council meetings and voting on legislation — including Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $16.4 billion 2023 budget, which the Council approved Monday. Austin was receiving supplemental oxygen while in the Council chambers that day. 

She’s attended other meetings, including last December when she collapsed in her seat during a separate City Council meeting. The Council chambers were cleared, Austin was evaluated by paramedics, and she was taken out of the chambers conscious.

She is not seeking reelection next year.

Reached by the Sun-Times, Durkin said he genuinely believes Austin isn’t fit to stand trial.

“We will fully explain her medical condition and the reasons we believe she can’t withstand trial in the motion that we will file by Nov. 18,” Durkin said.

Federal authorities put Austin under a cloud when they raided her ward offices in June 2019.

Prosecutors say Austin lied to them that day, denying she received anything from the developer but a cake.

Her indictment says that, starting in April 2016, she and Wilson accepted home improvements, furniture and appliances from — and then took official actions for — developer Boris Nitchoff, as well as a relative of his, an associate and their companies.

Nitchoff died in 2020.

Austin watched in February as another indicted City Council member, Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), was convicted at trial for cheating on his taxes and lying to federal regulators. Thompson had to give up his seat, and he is now serving a four-month prison sentence.

Meanwhile, fellow Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) has faced federal criminal charges for 46 months. His trial is set to take place a year from now, in November 2023.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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