Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin walked ‘unassisted’ despite medical claims, feds say

Austin is charged with taking sump pumps, a dehumidifier and kitchen cabinets as kickbacks from a developer overseeing a $50 million development in her ward.

SHARE Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin walked ‘unassisted’ despite medical claims, feds say
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) at a June Chicago City Council meeting.

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) at a June Chicago City Council meeting.

Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Federal prosecutors say recent FBI surveillance of Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) undermined her claim that she is medically unfit to stand trial on corruption charges.

Austin’s lawyers had asked U.S. District Judge John Kness last month to find her unfit, saying her deteriorating health had brought her to a point that she could not pass a six-minute walking test in September and struggles even with the help of a portable oxygen concentrator.

But while under surveillance on Nov. 19, Austin was seen walking in and out of a salon unassisted, a prosecutor said in a court filing Friday. After spending three hours at the salon, she was seen visiting a beauty store “again unassisted,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Didwania.

“FBI agents did not observe her using oxygen at any time during the surveillance,” Didwania wrote.

The only time the FBI saw Austin using an oxygen mask was when she left a medical facility Nov. 21, according to Didwania. 

“Afterwards, she dined-in at a restaurant in the South Loop,” Didwania wrote. “She walked into and out of the restaurant unassisted. She was there for approximately 40 minutes.”

Didwania wrote that “nullifying a federal indictment is a grave outcome” and that Austin has provided “no medical opinion that a trial would jeopardize her life.”

The prosecutor also noted that Austin plans to “continue to work the demanding job of an alderman for the next several months until her ward disappears under newly drawn maps.”

Didwania asked the judge to set a trial date as soon as possible for Austin, who 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.

Austin’s lawyer Thomas Anthony Durkin said that, though he had only skimmed the new filing, “We are struck by the cavalier attitude of the government that completely and callously ignores the voluminous medical records we provided. We also are bemused that the FBI saw fit to conduct surveillance on Ms. Austin’s recent comings and goings. Do they have nothing better to do?”

Austin’s lawyers wrote last month that she has been “under the constant care” of specialists for serious health problems since her indictment. They pointed to her collapse during a December 2021 Chicago City Council meeting, from which she was taken by ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

They said doctors there found she had a condition caused by a partial collapse of the lungs. They also said her breathing issues then worsened.

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