Key Daley aide, 3 others convicted in Chicago trial
July 6, 2006 (Last Updated: 10:10 PM) (WLS) -- A jury convicted Robert Sorich, a former top aide to Mayor Daley, and three other former city workers Thursday. The four men were found guilty of rigging the hiring process so clout-backed job candidates received jobs and promotions. Investigators call it a victory for the little guy.
It was actually a split verdict for Robert Sorich. The jury found him guilty on two counts and acquitted him on two others. But as far as the government is concerned, Thursday's conviction is a huge victory. Prosecutors say this case was about a new machine at City Hall called the "corrupt jobs machine."
It's a verdict Robert Sorich and his attorney never expected nor do they understand.
"I don't think this is a criminal offense, pure and simple," said Tom Durkin, Sorich's attorney.
But that's not what the jury of 10 men and two women thought. They convicted Mayors Daley's former patronage chief Robert Sorich along with three other high ranking City Hall officials, Tim McCarthy, Patrick Slattery and John Sullivan. They were all accused of playing a role in rigging city jobs and promotions for pro-Mayor Daley campaign workers.
"By stealing jobs, covering it up with sham interviews and phony ratings and false documentation, these defendants stole the taxpayers' money. And that's what this case was about," said Gary Shapiro, assistant U. S. attorney.
But Sorich's attorney Tom Durkin says what this case was really about was the man that holds the top job at City Hall.
"I think it is perfectly obviously that this case was prosecuted with an eye toward attempting to unseat Mayor Daley, and I think that is a very dangerous way to use the federal criminal justice system," Durkin said.
But for the jury, they say Mayor Daley's name never came up during deliberations. Jurors say this case was only about the four defendants and the evidence before them, evidence they say clearly showed corrupt hiring.
"There was no message to anybody anywhere. This is just a verdict again four individuals that, in our view, did something wrong," said Michael Hall, juror.
"To me that is appalling. We should be evaluating individuals -- for whatever kind of job that might be -- based on merit," said S. Jay Olshansky, jury foreman.
Out of all four defendants, former streets and sanitation official Patrick Slattery was the only one who spoke to reporters....
"We fought the fight best we could," Slattery said.
All four men will be sentenced in November.
Tom Durkin says he will appeal the case. Attorneys for the others are likely to do so as well.
This case is the first federal investigation to reach so deeply inside Mayor Daley's office. When asked who is next at City Hall, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro said "stay tuned."
City Hall fallout
Jurors say their verdict is not meant to be a judgment of political hiring throughout the entire Daley administration. But there is serious fallout in the halls of power.
"While I accept the jury's decision, I am saddened by the verdict for these men and their families," said Mayor Daley.
Sadness for the men convicted of working to rig the city's hiring procedures -- but nothing said to all those job applicants who didn't have a fair shot because they didn't have clout.
"I know you have many, many questions. There will be a considerable analysis of this verdict, which I cannot be a part of," Daley said.
In what may have been the shortest mayoral news conference in history, Mayor Daley spoke for only 1 minute and 28 seconds and refused to answer any questions.
The mayor claims to have cleaned up the city's hiring process. But he's said that before.
"The question is, is there really the will and the ability in the Daley administration to find and tackle patronage? I would argue their record right now is abysmal," said Jay Stewart, Better Government Association.
As head of the mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Robert Sorich was Daley's patronage chief. Now all eyes are on others who gave orders in that office, two men said to be very close to the mayor.
"If these people were guilty in rigging the patronage system -- they had orders. And the real question is what did the mayor order?" said Dick Simpson, former Chicago alderman.
Thursday night, the man whose name is synonymous with the order that supposedly banned political hiring in the city says the buck must stop at the top.
"As a matter of public responsibility and public trust, the buck should stop at the mayor's desk. He is the one that created the environment where these people thought it was okay to break the law," said Michael Shakman, attorney.
For the past several months Mayor Daley has used Sorich's trial as his reason for not answering questions about City Hall Hiring. It is unclear how much more the mayor will be willing to say considering the federal investigation continues. But he won't have the excuse of not wanting to be late for dinner with the president as his reason for not taking reporters' questions.
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