Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ex-top Daley Aide Pleads in Fraud Charges

While the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) may or may not understand the depth of the ongoing corruption investigation into Chicago Mayor Daley's administration, most people in Chicago understand the Feds are climbing up the ladder and its knocking out very close people to the mayor.

Of the almost 50 people who've been indicted and who knows how many other people will be or are under investigation, it's difficult to keep hearing the excuse from Daley that he had no idea that any of these things were happening under an admnistration that he micromanages with extreme control.

So, which is it? Is Daley an incompetent, aloof public official who rambles foolishly or is he slick, corrupt, manipulating public official who rambles foolishly?

While a Chicago Olympic Bid may the greatest idea ever, everyone should be prepared for the real possibility an international bid process could involve a mayor embroiled in corruption charges, not exactly the best face to show the world.

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By Jeff Coen
Chicago Tribune

March 28, 2007, 7:54 PM CDT

Former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in federal court Wednesday, with his lawyer calling it a "sad day" for the longtime public servant.

Sanchez, a former top aide to Mayor Richard Daley, became the highest-ranking city official to be charged in an ongoing hiring investigation at City Hall when he was indicted last week. He was accused of doling out city jobs in exchange for political work through the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO), which backed Daley and other candidates.

Sanchez, 59, pleaded not guilty to nine counts of mail fraud. Also pleading not guilty was Sanchez co-defendant Aaron Del Valle, 34, an HDO organizer and Chicago police officer who was charged with lying to a grand jury that heard evidence in the alleged hiring scheme.

Neither man would comment Wednesday at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, speaking only to tell U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier that they understood the proceedings.

Defense lawyer Tom Breen said the former Daley Cabinet member is looking forward to clearing his name.

"He does look forward to a trial where he hopes he will be vindicated," Breen said.

"Many, many people I've spoken to in the last few days thought that Al Sanchez deserved a civic award for the hard work he has done for the city of Chicago over 31 years of service," Breen said. "So this is kind of a sad day for a very fine man."

Breen said that Sanchez's spirits are fine, and that he is trying to keep a good outlook.

"He's disappointed and sorry about all this, but I think he is very hopeful," Breen said.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Manish Shah said in theory, Sanchez could face more than 160 years in prison. Del Valle could be sentenced to as long as 5 years, Shah told the judge.

Both men are free on signature bonds and expected to return to court next month.

The indictments were the first since Daley's former patronage chief, Robert Sorich, was convicted with three other aides last year in a similar job-rigging case.

Prosecutors have said Sanchez rewarded political workers with jobs, promotions, overtime, pay raises and transfers, and that he was involved in falsifying hiring records.

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