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Burke could go to trial in the middle of 2021, but judge declines to set specific date

Prosecutors say Burke’s trial could last a month, but defense attorneys say it’s not clear yet.

Ald. Ed Burke (14th) walks into the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, Thursday afternoon, Jan. 3, 2019.
Ald. Ed Burke (14th)
Sun-Times file photo

Ald. Edward Burke could be going to trial sometime in the middle of 2021, but the judge presiding over his case declined Tuesday to set a hard trial date.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow told attorneys he’d try to keep May, June and July of 2021 free for what would surely be a dramatic trial for someone who was once one of the state’s most influential politicians.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu asked Dow to set a specific trial date, telling the judge the case would likely last about a month. But defense attorneys balked, telling the judge the evidence is “beyond voluminous.” They said it’s not clear how long the trial would last.

Dow told the attorneys there is no demand on his schedule that far out, and he told them to come back for a status hearing June 11.

A four-page status report filed in Burke’s case last week said prosecutors have continued to turn over evidence as recently as Nov. 5 to attorneys for Burke and his two co-defendants, Peter Andrews and Charles Cui. It said the feds had turned over more than 100 discs, more than 44,000 pages and “several boxes of hard copy material.”

Material turned over that related to Burke had been “comprised of documents collected from various City Departments, subpoenaed from third parties, and seized from the 14th Ward Office and Committee on Finance” as well as “voluminous recordings,” the report said. Lawyers for the defendants said they were still reviewing the material.

An indictment accuses the powerful 14th Ward alderman of using his seat to steer business toward his private tax law firm amid schemes that involved the Old Post Office, a Burger King at 41st Street and Pulaski Road, and a redevelopment project on the Northwest Side. Andrews and Cui were implicated in the Burger King scheme and the redevelopment project, respectively.

The indictment showcased the undercover work of former 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis, who wore a wire as a federal informant. It revealed that, by August 2018, authorities had recorded more than 62,000 of Burke’s phone calls.

A November 2018 raid on Burke’s office revealed the existence of multiple, ongoing federal investigations into public corruption. Also charged in separate cases since then are state Sen. Thomas Cullerton, who is due for trial in July, former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, who appears on track to plead guilty, and former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, who pleaded guilty last week to a brazen bribery scheme involving red-light cameras.