Feds defend Danny Solis’ deal, say his cooperation was ‘truly extraordinary’
A judge agreed Thursday to delay Solis’ prosecution on a bribery charge until April 2025. If he keeps up his end of the bargain, the feds are expected to seek dismissal of that charge.
A federal prosecutor called former Ald. Danny Solis (25th) one of Chicago’s “most significant cooperators in the last several decades” in a rare speech in defense of the deal Solis cut with the feds that has drawn the ire of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and others.
“Mr. Solis’ cooperation has been truly extraordinary,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu told U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood in a court hearing Thursday. “Indeed, I would say in some ways, it’s been singular.”
By the end of the hearing, Wood had agreed to delay Solis’ prosecution on a bribery charge until April 2025. If he holds up his end of a so-called deferred-prosecution agreement, including by cooperating, the feds are expected to seek dismissal of that charge.
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Solis helped the feds secure criminal charges against Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and others. He did so after he’d been confronted with his own alleged misconduct. But Bhachu said cooperation “wasn’t the only path available to Mr. Solis.”
Rather, he said Solis could have tried to dodge accountability and obstruct investigators. Bhachu called it “an easy path that many in this city and state have followed.”
Instead, Bhachu said Solis took the other, “more difficult” path of admitting wrongdoing and cooperating for what has now been six years.
“When he was asked to make a recording with a third party, he did it,” Bhachu said. “When law enforcement wanted to meet with Mr. Solis, he was there. During the course of his cooperation, he had made hundreds of recordings.”
Bhachu also said that, while some in Chicago talk about cleaning up corruption, “often all it amounts to is talk.”
“It’s rare that someone actually delivers,” Bhachu said. “And in this regard, Mr. Solis has delivered.”
Later, Bhachu said that many people have “no idea” what kind of commitment it takes to work with federal law enforcement in that way, because “they haven’t done anything like it.”
Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, has sharply criticized Solis’ deal with the government, saying she was “deeply offended” that he could wind up avoiding prison time or even a conviction despite alleged crimes he committed. They were detailed in an explosive FBI affidavit first obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The mayor issued a statement last week, announcing that she had directed her lawyers to prepare a victim-impact statement “which will be filed with the court” in Solis’ case. The statement never arrived, though. Bhachu told the judge Thursday it wouldn’t be forthcoming after prosecutors had engaged in “productive conversations” with City Hall.
In a separate statement following the hearing Thursday, Lightfoot said, “the city sees no need to formally intervene” following the talks with the feds.
But Solis’ successor, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) did send Wood a letter insisting that the harm caused by Solis’ corruption is “generational” and that it “should not be ignored despite Mr. Solis’ cooperation with the United States Attorney’s Office.”
“If former Alderman Solis is not held accountable/charged, we feel that our hard work to reform will be undone,” Sigcho-Lopez wrote.
But Bhachu pushed back on the idea that Solis would not face accountability. He said Solis “will never hold public office again,” and the allegations against him have been “widely disseminated here in the Chicago area.”
Not only that, Bhachu said, but Solis will be ostracized by many, including by “colleagues and friends.”
“Life is never going to be the same for him again,” Bhachu said.