Prosecutor tells Chicago patronage trial that `the fix was in'

Monday, June 26, 2006

It was all a charade. That's how the government described hiring and promotions at Chicago City Hall Monday as the corruption case against Mayor Daley's former patronage chief and three other men draws to a close.

Sorich and three other former members of Mayor Daley's administration are accused of placing political workers in city jobs.

Prosecutors completed their closing early Monday afternoon. Now defense attorneys are making their case to the jury.

After six weeks of testimony and 30 government witnesses, prosecutors are trying to convince the jury Robert Sorich and the other three defendants are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But the defense has called this case "stupid" and "odd" and says the government has not proven its case.

Robert Sorich and his co-defendants walked into court Monday morning looking relaxed and relieved. But what followed was more than three hours of listening to closing arguments where the government called the defendants schemers. Prosecutor Barry Miller said they "lied, concealed, and did what they could to hide the corrupt criminal clout machine."

Sorich, Patrick Slattery, Tim McCarthy, and John Sullivan are charged with rigging city jobs and promotions for pro-Mayor Daley campaign workers. Prosecutor Julie Ruder called the hiring process a charade. She told the jury, "The fix was in. It was not about qualifications, not about merit. It was about politics, clout, it was about whose palm you greased."

Under a federal court order, known as the Shakman Decree, it is against the law for politics to influence city hiring. The government says Sorich and co-defendants went to great lengths to give the appearance that hiring was free of politics. In reality, Ruder says, they called the shots when it came to hiring and made sure politically connected candidates received jobs and promotions by conducting sham interviews and filling out bogus rating forms. Ruder told the jury, "It's about stealing jobs from the City of Chicago. They stole jobs funded by taxpayers."

The government argues Sorich tried to conceal the scheme by ordering computer files to be deleted and by destroying documents but from the beginning. The defense attorney Tom Durkin has called this case "stupid" and "odd" and Monday added "intellectually dishonest." He said, if anything, this is case is nothing more than civil violations, not criminal violations. He looked at the jury and said, "Don't try to run Daley out of office by convicting these guys."

Durkin said, when Robert Sorich was involved in hiring, it had to do with satisfying the city's need for diversity and affirmative action. The government called that "cynical."

The three other defense attorneys will get their shot Tuesday. Then there will be a rebuttal. By the time the jury gets this case, it will probably not be until Wednesday.

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