CHICAGO (SCS) — A federal judge on Thursday granted federal prosecutors permission to pursue their deferred prosecution agreement with the former Ald. Daniel Solis, after the federal government commended him for his “singular” cooperation in several high-profile corruption cases.
Assistant US Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu has been cooperating with federal investigators since 2016 and during that time helped them bring racketeering indictments against Ald. Edward Burke and former Illinois President Michael Madigan.
“He didn’t just talk. He acted. He worked with the federal government for six years to expose corruption,” Bhachu said of Solis.
After Bhachu’s passionate defense of the Solis deal, U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood agreed to rule out a three-year term in Solis’ case, meaning he’s now on track for the bribery charge against him be dismissed on April 8, 2025, if he is up to it. to its cooperation agreement with the federal government.
The development came after city prosecutors decided not to act on suggestions last week that they might seek to intervene in the case.
At Thursday’s hearing, Bhachu said the city’s legal department had not filed any records in the case, a week after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement that she was ordering the legal department to the city to prepare a “victim impact statement” in the case.
In a statement Friday, Lightfoot said that following multiple discussions with federal prosecutors over the past week, the city “sees no need to formally intervene” in the case.
“Separately and outside of this specific process, we will continue to aggressively protect our residents and especially our taxpayers from individuals who commit crimes or otherwise obtain city resources unethically,” Lightfoot said.
However, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Solis’ successor in the 25th Ward, filed his own victim impact statement on behalf of the ward, urging Wood to consider the impact of Solis’ corruption on the ward and the city when sentencing him for a leader of corruption.
“The harm caused by this corruption is generational,” Sigcho-Lopez wrote.
Solis, 72, entered into what is called a deferred prosecution agreement, in which federal prosecutors agreed to dropafter three years in return for his continued cooperation in the cases against Burke, Madigan and others.
As part of his deal with the federal government, Solis admitted to taking $15,000 in kickbacks from a developer who needed his help with a zoning change to build a building on land that was previously a restaurant in his neighborhood.
Wood said that while she carefully read Sigcho-Lopez’s victim impact statement, there was no conviction, trial or guilty plea in the case, so there is no no sentencing decision to take into account at this stage. What was not told in court was that if Solis abides by the terms of his Deferred Prosecution Agreement, the charges against him will be dismissed in 2025 and he will never be convicted for his crimes.
The judge also said she had limited power to decide whether or not to approve a deferred prosecution agreement, saying the only question before her was essentially whether the agreement was an attempt to circumvent the law of Solis to a speedy trial. She also noted that she does not have the authority to compel prosecutors to file additional charges in the case.
Bhachu defended federal prosecutors’ deal with Solis, praising him for his extensive cooperation with multiple investigations. He said Solis has been cooperating with federal authorities for more than six years so far, since they approached him in 2016 when he himself was under investigation. Bhachu described Solis as “one of the most singular collaborators of the last decades”.
Solis has taped hundreds of conversations for the federal government over the past six years, resulting in multiple wiretaps, and his cooperation could last more than a decade in the end.
“A lot of people talk about cleaning up corruption, and often it all comes down to talking,” Bhachu said. “It’s rare that someone actually delivers, and in that respect, Mr. Solis delivered. He took action,” Bhachu said.
While Sigcho-Lopez’s letter decried what he called Solis’ “rampant and unchecked corruption” and suggested that the deferred prosecution agreement would allow him to avoid accountability for his crimes, Bhachu argued that Sigcho-Lopez exaggerated Solis’ misconduct, while underestimating the impact the deal will have on his life.
Bhachu said Solis not only admitted his crimes and could face serious consequences if he violates the terms of his agreement; but lost his civil service seat, agreed never to hold elected office again, and was ostracized by his former colleagues on city council after agreeing to wear a wire to record conversations with Burke and Madigan.
Solis has also agreed to testify on behalf of federal prosecutors in several cases.
“A lot of people have no idea what kind of commitment and sacrifice is required because they haven’t done anything like that,” Bhachu said of Solis’ cooperation with several federal investigations. “Life will never be the same for him again.”
Bhachu also took issue with Sigcho-Lopez’s complaints in his letter regarding various zoning decisions made by Solis during his tenure, which Sigcho-Lopez said resulted in “an unprecedented displacement of more than 14,000 low-income residents, primarily Mexicans and Mexican Americans from the Pilsen community. “
“Disagreements over policies and how the neighborhood should be developed or not, those things are not federal crimes,” Bhachu said.
After agreeing to move forward with the deferred prosecution agreement, Wood said prosecutors and defense attorneys would be required to submit quarterly written progress reports, starting in July.