Federal prosecutors on Friday stated indicted Chicago Ald. Carrie Austin is exaggerating well being points to keep away from going to trial on fraud prices, saying the FBI just lately noticed her going about political duties and operating each day errands and that she hasn’t met even the “naked minimal” of proof she’s incapable of going through a jury.
Austin, 73, and her high aide, Chester Wilson, have been indicted in June 2021 on prices they shepherded a brand new actual property growth via the Metropolis Corridor approval course of starting in 2016 and got residence enchancment perks from a developer searching for to affect them. They’ve pleaded not responsible.
In a movement final month, Austin’s legal professional, Thomas Anthony Durkin, requested that her case be severed from Wilson’s and that she be declared medically unfit for trial resulting from persistent and worsening coronary heart failure, in addition to a respiratory situation “that makes her really feel like she is drowning when she lays down, so she will be able to solely sleep in a recliner.”
Of their 14-page response Friday, nevertheless, prosecutors wrote that Austin has failed to supply any plausible proof that standing trial would endanger her life, noting she’s labored via well being points for years and isn’t planning to retire till March.
“As she even insists, she is going to proceed to work the demanding job of an alderman for the subsequent a number of months till her ward disappears underneath newly drawn maps,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vikas Didwania and Thomas Peabody wrote. “She has continued to attend hours-long Metropolis Council conferences. She goes about city, together with just lately eating at a restaurant, spending hours at a salon, and attending a city corridor assembly.”
In gentle of her declare to be medically unfit for trial, the FBI carried out “restricted surveillance” of Austin in latest weeks, watching as went via the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant, bought her hair performed, visited a magnificence retailer and “walked unassisted” out and in of an obvious physician’s appointment.
The prosecutors additionally stated that since her well being points aren’t anticipated to go away, granting Austin’s request would primarily “nullify” the indictment in opposition to her, which they stated can be a “grave consequence” that denigrates the general public’s proper to a speedy decision of prison instances.
Prosecutors requested U.S. District Choose John Kness to right away set a trial date for each defendants.
Austin, who’s amongst a latest string of sitting Chicago aldermen to face federal prison prices, is charged with conspiring to make use of interstate amenities to advertise bribery and different prices, Wilson, 56, of Chicago, was hit with bribery prices and one rely of theft of presidency funds.
The central developer within the indictment, now deceased, was engaged on a 91-unit undertaking in Austin’s Far South Aspect ward. In keeping with the indictment, the developer offered enhancements at Austin’s residence and an funding property Wilson owns.
Between them, they acquired with new kitchen cupboards, granite counter tops, lavatory tiling, sump pumps and an HVAC system without cost or at a reduction, based on the costs.
Chicago Tribune editors’ high story picks, delivered to your inbox every afternoon.
In his movement final month, Durkin wrote that the request to defer her trial was made “out of an abundance of concern that Ms. Austin merely is not going to make it via the stress of trial or the tough pretrial preparation.”
“Neither this courtroom, nor the federal government, ought to threat the lack of a life over these prices,” the movement said. “Failing to resolve them could disappoint each events, however such a failure is not going to trigger the collapse of our Republic.”
Prosecutors responded that whereas that could be true, it’s not a authorized foundation to flee standing trial, significantly in case that carries “severe democratic issues.”
“Our consultant system of presidency essentially is determined by belief between elected officers and constituents,” Didwania and Peabody wrote. “Prosecution of public corruption helps to rebuild that belief and enhances self-governance; nullifying an in any other case legitimate indictment would do the alternative.”
Austin, who has served because the thirty fourth Ward alderman for almost 30 years, was herself appointed to the place by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley in July 1994, to fill the seat of her late husband, Lemuel Austin, who died all of the sudden from a coronary heart assault at 48.
Her well being issues got here to the forefront final December when she collapsed in her seat throughout a Metropolis Council assembly and was wheeled out on a stretcher. After the assembly concluded, Lightfoot remarked that aldermen confirmed an “outpouring of humanity” for his or her colleague.