City Hall may seek to intervene in Danny Solis case, claiming to be victim
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she told lawyers to file a victim-impact statement in Solis’ case. She added, “no one is above the law and Chicago residents expect that their elected officials will be held accountable.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has made no secret of her disdain for the deal ex-Ald. Danny Solis (25th) struck with the feds after years of gathering evidence against some of Illinois’ most powerful politicians.
That’s because Solis, who held sway as the City Council’s zoning chair, only turned on his colleagues after a lengthy investigation uncovered evidence of his own corruption for which he could ultimately avoid prison or even a criminal conviction.
Now, it appears City Hall is getting ready to intervene in the criminal case finally filed last week against Solis — and perhaps even try to challenge the deal prosecutors struck with a man who could go down as one of Chicago’s most significant government moles.
If so, it will likely be to no avail unless Solis wanders astray of his four-page deferred-prosecution agreement, first made public Tuesday. He signed it Dec. 26, 2018, after working undercover against Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) and then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“There can be no doubt that former Ald. Solis violated the public trust in profound ways, not the least of which was by monetizing his position as Zoning Committee chairman for the benefit of himself and others, likely for years,” Lightfoot said in a statement Wednesday. “Because of all of the crimes that have been put on the public record, Solis victimized the residents of his ward and residents in the entire city, all of whom were deprived of the integrity and honesty that should be sacrosanct with all public officials.”
Lightfoot said she told City Hall lawyers to file a so-called victim-impact statement in Solis’ case. And she added, “no one is above the law and Chicago residents expect that their elected officials will be held accountable.”
City Hall’s potential intervention in Solis’ case was disclosed earlier Wednesday during Solis’ arraignment before U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood. Prosecutors charged him with bribery Friday, more than three years after his secret cooperation with the government was first exposed by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Solis’ plea during Wednesday’s hearing — as well as simple answers he gave to other questions from the judge — amounted to his first public comments since he exited public life.
“I plead not guilty, your honor,” Solis said.
Attached to Solis’ deferred-prosecution agreement was a two-page exhibit in which he admitted soliciting campaign contributions from a development group which needed his help at City Hall in 2015. The group’s owners included Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf.
But a bombshell FBI affidavit first obtained by the Sun-Times laid out a litany of additional alleged crimes by Solis. It said he received a stream of benefits from certain individuals in exchange for official action. The benefits included Viagra, prostitution services and campaign contributions, according to the document.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu told the judge Wednesday about City Hall’s potential intervention. Neither he nor Solis’ lawyer, Lisa Noller, objected to giving the city time to make its argument.
Bhachu said the government “always invites” the participation of victims. But he added, “whether or not, in this case, the city actually is a victim remains to be determined. It is doubtful it is, in fact, the case.”
Wood set another hearing for April 21.
Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor who in 2019 rode headlines generated by the public corruption scandal involving Solis, Burke and Madigan all the way to the mayor’s office.
Jeffrey Cramer, also a former federal prosecutor now with Guidepost Solutions, acknowledged the people of Chicago “were indeed deprived of proper services from their alderman.”
Still, Cramer told the Sun-Times any victim-impact statement filed by City Hall would amount to a “placeholder” document in case Solis ever violates the terms of his deal and is prosecuted. Otherwise, Cramer said, “it’s moot.”
As for the extraordinary deal Solis struck with prosecutors at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, Cramer said, “the U.S. attorney has complete information.”
“Everyone outside the Dirksen building doesn’t.”