Ex-Ald. Danny Solis’ secret deal with feds goes public

It’s the formal understanding between U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office and a man who could be remembered as one of Chicago’s most significant government moles. Solis’ cooperation was first exposed by the Chicago Sun-Times four weeks after he signed the deal.

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Ald. Danny Solis (25th). | Sun-Times files

Ex-Ald. Danny Solis (25th)

Sun-Times file photo

The secret deal that former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis (25th) struck with federal prosecutors more than three years ago in a bid to avoid prison became a public document Tuesday, one day before he was set to be arraigned before a judge.

Solis signed the four-page deal, known as a deferred-prosecution agreement, on Dec. 26, 2018, after he’d already spent years gathering evidence that would become crucial to the racketeering indictments of Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) and then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, two of the most powerful politicians in the state.

The document is the formal understanding between U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office and a man who could be remembered as one of Chicago’s most significant government moles. His cooperation was first exposed by the Chicago Sun-Times four weeks after he signed the deal.

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But the arrangement has also drawn outrage from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Solis’ 25th-Ward successor, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who said Tuesday that “we all should be upset and angry that this is allowed.”

Neither Solis nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Solis only agreed to cooperate with the feds after they confronted him with his own misdeeds, which allegedly included accepting a stream of improper benefits that included Viagra, prostitution services and campaign contributions.

Prosecutors formally filed a bribery charge against Solis on Friday. His prosecution is expected to be deferred for another three years, though his deal also says his cooperation will end only when the feds notify him in writing “that all investigations and prosecutions” connected to his efforts are complete.

Assuming Solis holds up his end of the deal, prosecutors have promised to seek dismissal of the bribery count filed against him and won’t prosecute him for that or for other conduct disclosed to them by Solis “related to his actions or omissions as a public official.”

Attached to the deal was a two-page exhibit titled “Admissions by Daniel Solis.” In it, Solis admitted he sought campaign contributions from a development group that needed his help at City Hall. The document said he did so in part “as a reward” for his assistance as the council’s zoning chair and as a member of the City Council.

The development group’s owners included Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf, as first reported by the Sun-Times.

All of this comes one day before Solis is due to be arraigned before U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood. Solis could also turn out to be the latest Chicago politician to benefit from COVID-19 protocols at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, though.

Solis’ arraignment is due to take place by telephone. That means he won’t be forced to stroll through the courthouse lobby, where he surely would have been mobbed by news reporters and camera crews.

Madigan avoided such a scene when he was arraigned by phone last month. He didn’t even speak during the call.

Meanwhile, a litany of alleged wrongdoing by Solis has already been revealed in a bombshell FBI affidavit first obtained by the Sun-Times in January 2019. Among them was his efforts to secure campaign contributions from the Reinsdorf-connected developer, which the feds have now pointed to in support of the charge against him.

The Sun-Times has identified that developer as Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group, which wanted to build a multiunit rental building on the former site of Carmichael’s steakhouse near the United Center, in Solis’ ward.

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Solis spoke with one of the group’s executives, whom the Sun-Times has identified as Thomas Meador, on July 27, 2015. Solis asked him to contribute to a fundraiser to be held Sept. 10, 2015. Solis also asked Meador to seek contributions from others.

Meador has not been accused of wrongdoing and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Two of the developer’s executives contributed $5,000 each to Solis’ campaign fund on Aug. 26, 2015, according to the court document. Those contributions came from Robert Judelson and Al Lieberman, campaign records show.

Solis’ zoning committee recommended the change be passed Sept. 21, 2015, according to the court document. That same day, a third executive made a $5,000 contribution to Solis’ campaign fund. That money came from Paul Dewoskin, according to the campaign records.

Judelson, Lieberman and Dewoskin also have not been accused of wrongdoing. They could not be reached for comment.

The full City Council approved the project Sept. 24, 2015, with Solis voting in favor.

Lightfoot has said she is “deeply offended” that Solis could avoid prison despite his wrongdoing. Sigcho-Lopez expressed similar outrage Tuesday.

“Everybody who has been proven guilty of corruption should face justice and should be held accountable,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

Pressed on whether Solis should serve prison time, Sigcho-Lopez said, “Absolutely. We, as elected officials, have a responsibility to never betray the trust of the public. When doing so, we should face consequences.”

But Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), a former federal prosecutor who chairs the council’s ethics committee, saw it differently.

“That is exactly how this system works,” Smith said. “Often, people with distasteful backgrounds cooperate with law enforcement in order to catch the bigger players.”

“That is just reality,” she said, “because criminals don’t tend to say what they’re doing to angels.”

Read the full deferred prosecution agreement here:

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