Cochran considering whether to plead guilty to corruption charges

Lawyer for alderman said negotiations underway in federal corruption case

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Crusader Staff Report

Alderman Willie Cochran is considering whether to plead guilty to federal corruption charges, according to one report on the Chicago Sun-Times website Wednesday, August 15.

Cochran’s attorney Christopher Grohman said his client “has been offered something and he is thinking about it.”

Grohman said no final decision has been made and no hearing has been set for Cochran to change his previous plea of not guilty.

Earlier in the day, the Chicago Tribune reported that Cochran had plans to plead guilty and told U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso that the agreement was being hammered out and would likely be finalized in the coming weeks. Bur hours later, Cochran told the Sun-Times that “(Cochran) has not yet decided whether or not he will plead guilty.”

Cochran was charged in 2016 with a scheme to shake down two businessmen for cash in exchange for an ordinance change in the 20th ward.

Cochran is also accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars in charitable donations from the 20th Ward Activities Fund. The 15-count indictment said Cochran spent it on college tuition for his daughter, trips to casinos in Indiana and accessories for his Mercedes and other personal items.

Grohman said a plea agreement with federal prosecutors is still being hammered out and would likely be finalized in the coming weeks. He also said Cochran, who kept his job as alderman, will not seek reelection next February despite one news report that said he was considering the idea after announcing he would step down.

In court, Grohman argued that the FBI improperly put pressure on a liquor store owner who testified that Cochran never asked him for anything in exchange for Cochran’s help for an ordinance change.  Grohman in court documents said weeks later after testifying before a grand jury, federal agents confronted the store owner, warning him that he would “be in trouble if he didn’t come clean.” The man was brought back and said Cochran demanded he give him  $5,000 in a text message.

Cochran has served as alderman since replacing Arenda Troutman in 2007. In addition to Woodlawn, Cochran’s ward includes Englewood, Back of the Yards, Washington Park and Greater Grand Crossing. A former Chicago police officer, Cochran is currently serving his third term as alderman.

Concerns about Cochran’s health grew last November when he collapsed in his chair during a Chicago Police Department hearing. Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) saw Cochran shaking, and slumping in his chair. Alderman Pat O’Connor (40th), a former lifeguard, performed CPR reviving Cochran, who was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Cochran said he believes he fainted because of complications from a new blood pressure medication he was taking.

 

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