The secret deal that former Ald. Danny Solis (25th) struck more than three years ago with federal prosecutors is now a public document.
A four-page deal known as a deferred-prosecution agreement hit the federal court docket Tuesday. Dated Dec. 26, 2018, it shows the feds agreed to charge Solis with one bribery count “based upon the substantial assistance” Solis had provided to law enforcement.
That assistance included turning on his colleagues and secretly recording conversations for the feds, as first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times less than a month after Solis signed the document.
Solis went undercover after investigators confronted him with his own alleged misdeeds. He would go on to help the feds build racketeering indictments against Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) and former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Now, in a two-page exhibit attached to Solis’ deal titled “Admissions by Daniel Solis,” the former City Council member admits to a scheme in which he was caught discussing plans to solicit campaign money from a development group that needed his help at City Hall.
The group’s owners included Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf, as first reported by the Sun-Times.
If Solis holds up his end of the bargain with the feds, prosecutors have agreed to seek dismissal of the bribery charge filed against him last week. That means Solis could avoid prison time or a criminal conviction, much to the chagrin of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and others.
Solis is due to be arraigned Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood. But he might also become the latest Chicago politician to benefit from COVID-19 protocols at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
His arraignment is set to take place by telephone, meaning he won’t be forced to walk through the courthouse lobby, where he would surely be mobbed by news reporters and camera crews.
In the newly revealed document, Solis admitted that he solicited campaign contributions while a Chicago-based developer had a matter pending before the council’s zoning committee, which Solis controlled.
The Sun-Times has identified that developer as Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group. The Reinsdorf-connected developer wanted to build a multiunit rental building on the former site of Carmichael’s steakhouse near the United Center, in Solis’ ward.
Solis spoke with one of the group’s executives, Thomas Meador, on July 27, 2015, and asked him to contribute to a fund-raiser to be held on Sept. 10, 2015. Solis also asked Meador to seek contributions from others.
Two of the developer’s executives contributed $5,000 each to Solis’ campaign fund on Aug. 26, 2015, according to the document.
Solis admitted in the document that he solicited the contributions “as a reward” for his assistance “as Chairman of the Zoning Committee and member of the City Council.”
The zoning committee recommended the change be passed on Sept. 21, 2015. That same day, a third executive made a $5,000 contribution to Solis’ campaign fund. Three days later, the full City Council approved the developer’s project, with Solis also voting in favor.
A litany of other alleged misconduct by Solis had also been revealed in a bombshell FBI affidavit first obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times in January 2019. The document, filed in federal court in May 2016, alleged that Solis “received a flow of private benefits” from people in exchange for official action.
Among those alleged benefits were Viagra, prostitution services and campaign contributions. The affidavit also alleged Solis “agreed to take action in his official capacity as an alderman for private benefits directed to Michael Madigan.”
The feds secretly recorded Solis, Madigan and others during a meeting at Madigan’s law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, in August 2014.
The Sun-Times first revealed Solis’ cooperation in January 2019. Since then, his undercover work has been featured in some of Chicago’s most high-profile public corruption indictments, which typically refer to him as “Alderman A.”
Burke told Solis “the cash register has not rung yet” and later asked him “did we land the . . . tuna?” as Burke tried to leverage his own power on the council to steer business to his private law firm, according to Burke’s indictment.
In the Madigan indictment, Solis played a role in alleged schemes to transfer a Chinatown property from the state to the city of Chicago to clear the way for a development, as well as to place Solis on a state board following his retirement from the City Council.