Saturday, June 1, 2019

Presumption of innocence, unless it gets in the way of partisan politics

It is one of the pillars upon which our society´s criminal justice system is based – one is presumed innocent of any criminal charges they may face, until the moment they are found “guilty” by a jury of their peers.
BURKE: Not guilty until proven otherwise

That includes Alderman Edward M. Burke, who earlier this year was named in a criminal complaint alleging some improper activity (trying to shake down the operators of a Burger King franchise in his home neighborhood) – but who learned this week the charges against him are now upgraded to include a whole slew of criminal acts.

IT WOULD SEEM that the U.S. Attorney’s office for Northern Illinois (ie., Chicago proper) is planning on making a priority this year (and probably next) out of going after the man who has managed to survive a half-century in the City Council.

But instead of celebrating the 50-year mark with a gift of gold, there are those who want the color orange to eventually predominate (as in an orange jumpsuit like those worn by prison inmates).

Now I’m not trying to defend the conduct of Burke. I’ll be as interested as anyone else in seeing what kinds of details come out of any criminal proceedings that put Burke on trial before a jury of his peers – who will mostly be people who don’t have the clout to get out of jury duty.

It will be intriguing to see if federal prosecutors actually manage to prove their case against Burke to a degree they can get a criminal conviction against the already 75-year-old alderman who probably thought he’d finish up his time as a political elder statesman.
LIGHTFOOT: She wants Burke out NOW!!!

NOT AS A potential federal inmate colleague of the oft-despised former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich.

I don’t doubt, however, that some people aren’t willing to wait out the process – the enforcement of which is what gives our society the moral high ground and keeps our courts from being amongst the more tyrannical systems of the world.

Which is why I’m bothered by just how swiftly Mayor Lori Lightfoot jumped all over the Burke name this week in trying to demand his immediate resignation.

It would seem the one-time federal prosecutor is counting on her one-time legal colleagues at the Dirksen Federal Building to knock off the man who’s made it clear he doesn’t view her mayoral election as being some sort of great moment in Chicago history.
FRIAS: The lone acquitted alderman

WHICH ACTUALLY WAS the area in which Burke liked to think of himself as a master. He was the alderman who used to like to end City Council debates on issues with long, drawn-out statements that were loaded with historical trivia and political factoids that supposedly put every issue into context.

But which all too often made Burke seem like an overbloated ego with too strong a sense of his own self-importance.

Perhaps that’s the reason Lightfoot is eager to see Burke (who managed to win re-election earlier this year with ease) out immediately, and doesn’t feel like waiting for the courts to do their business and reach a “guilty” verdict that would force his immediate resignation.
Will it be the 'feds' challenging … 

It would be a lot fewer headaches for Lightfoot – even though someone of her legal background knows full well she doesn’t have the authority to force him to quit now. If anything, his continued presence at City Hall is more about political spite.

NOW IT’S VERY likely that a “guilty” verdict eventually will be reached. The process really is rigged against anyone whom prosecutors decide to go after.

Much is often made of the 30-plus aldermen who, since 1973, were found “guilty” of some sort of criminal act. Much less mentioned is the name “Ray Frias,” who is memorable because he’s the lone alderman indicted who ultimately managed to get a “not guilty” verdict.

So it may well be that Burke’s place in Chicago political history will be the most prominent alderman to wind up “doing time” for actions prosecutors deem criminal, but which some will try defending as, “the way Chicago politics works.”
… City Hall business-as-usual in Burke trial? Photos by Gregory Tejeda
Lightfoot may get her desire for a Burke-less City Council, but she’d better be wary of her own behavior. Because there’s also no doubt some might try to twist her own actions into criminal behavior – perhaps out of a desire they could add a mayoral name to the dozens of aldermen, Illinois governors and Congressmen, who have wound up doing time.


No comments: