Feds tell Ed Burke’s lawyers they don’t plan to call Danny Solis at racketeering trial

One of Chicago’s most notorious federal informants might not take the witness stand this fall despite playing a key role in the downfall of former Chicago Ald. Edward M. Burke, who faces trial in two months.

Federal prosecutors told defense attorneys Wednesday they do not intend to call former Ald. Danny Solis to the witness stand during Burke’s trial unless it becomes necessary to admit certain evidence, or unless an entrapment defense is asserted. 

That’s according to Burke defense attorney Charles Sklarsky.

That means it’s still possible that Solis will have to testify. But for now, it seems the feds are planning to prove their case without him. Though the evidence gathered by Solis is key to the case, prosecutors could introduce it into the trial through other witnesses.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall, who presides over Burke’s case, ordered prosecutors to make the disclosure no later than Wednesday.

The feds have called Solis one of Chicago’s “most significant cooperators in the last several decades.” He also helped them build a case against former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

But Solis went underground after the Chicago Sun-Times first revealed Solis’ cooperation with the feds in January 2019. He had agreed to work with the government — recording Burke, Madigan and others — after investigators confronted him in 2016 with evidence of his own wrongdoing. 

A 2016 FBI affidavit first obtained by the Sun-Times alleged that Solis received “a steady flow of personal benefits” from people for whom he had taken or offered official action. The benefits allegedly included Viagra, prostitution services, the use of a multi-million dollar farm and campaign contributions. 

The later undercover work by Solis helped prosecutors build their blockbuster indictments against Burke and Madigan. Still, Solis’ past conduct could have been subject to a blistering cross-examination. Solis is now formally charged with bribery, but the feds are expected to seek dismissal of that charge if he holds up his end of a deferred-prosecution agreement due to end in April 2025.

Burke, who left office in May after a record 54 years on the City Council, faces trial Nov. 6 on a racketeering indictment handed up in May 2019. He is accused of using his seat to steer business to his private 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. He is also accused of threatening to block a fee increase at the Field Museum because it didn’t respond when he recommended a friend’s daughter as an intern.

Also set to face trial with Burke are political aide Peter Andrews and developer Charles Cui.

Wednesday’s disclosure by the feds means Solis could avoid the same recent fate as other federal cooperators. Two others have been forced to testify this year amid a remarkable run of public corruption trials. Former ComEd executive Fidel Marquez, who secretly recorded his friends and colleagues for the FBI in a case related to Madigan, and former state Sen. Terry Link, who secretly recorded then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo in a bribery investigation, have both recently taken the stand.

Solis is also a potential key witness in the racketeering conspiracy case against Madigan, set for trial in April. Feds tell Ed Burke’s lawyers they don’t plan to call Danny Solis at racketeering trial

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