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Attorney Beau Brindley’s co-defendant pleads guilty, agrees to cooperate against him

High-flying defense attorney Beau Brindley’s fight against federal perjury charges suffered a major setback Wednesday when his co-defendant pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors against him.

Maria Collazo, 30, admitted she lied on the stand at a drug trial in 2009 — but said she did so only at Brindley’s urging.

Brindley, a 36-year-old onetime rising star of Chicago’s criminal defense bar, has been at the center of a scandal that has the city’s lawyers’ tongues wagging since he was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice earlier this year. He denies coaching Collazo to lie about why his client, drug dealer Alex Vasquez, was driving a Pontiac Bonneville used in a federal cocaine sting on Aug. 5, 2008.

But Collazo on Wednesday admitted she’d committed perjury, and signed a plea deal that states “Brindley did tell her what to testify to and, as Brindley knew, it was not the truth.”

The plea deal requires Collazo — the wife of a co-defendant of Vasquez’s — to cooperate against Brindley in return for prosecutors’ agreement to recommend a sentence of probation.

Brindley’s attorney, Cynthia Giachetti, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday, but Collazo’s deal clearly hurts Brindley’s defense.

Brindley has put a brave face on the charges and continues to represent many defendants in federal cases in the same courthouse where he is now due to stand trial.

Last month he made an emotional plea for mercy in the high-profile case of bank robber Jose Banks, who staged a daring escape from his cell on the 17th floor of the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center in 2012. Despite Brindley’s efforts, Banks was sentenced to 36 years in prison.

Brindley himself faces up to 20 years if convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.