CHICAGO (STMW) — The former chief of staff to Ald. Howard Brookins was sentenced to 15 months in prison Wednesday for taking a $7,500 bribe.
Curtis Thompson Jr. said in a court filing this week that he wore a wire for the feds to target Brookins but claimed the feds “ultimately blew the investigation.” The alderman has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Thompson pleaded guilty in December to taking a $7,500 cash bribe from an undercover FBI informant at a 2013 Christmas party at the alderman’s office. He pocketed the Christmas card full of cash after helping the informant land the alderman’s essential support for a liquor license in the 21st Ward.
Thompson told U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan in December “I definitely issued the letter of support” for the license.
“And I accepted the $7,500,” Thompson said.
On Wednesday, before his sentencing, Thompson apologized to his family, friends and community. He said he’s lost all self respect.
“It all just evaporated,” Thompson said. “It’s gone now.”
U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan said at the sentencing hearing that, “Public corruption does hurt the public, and the public needs to be protected.”
Brookins — who won re-election in an April runoff — denies wrongdoing. He told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this year that he does “not remember, acknowledge receiving or seeing any document. And I’m certain if that happened, it is on tape, and so the context of what, when, how, etc., only the feds could answer that.”
In fact, federal authorities have said they have audio and video recordings of the meetings in which the informant offered a bribe.
Prosecutors asked Der-Yeghiayan earlier this year to lock Thompson up for 15 months for giving Chicagoans “one more reason to give into the cynicism of a ‘Where’s mine?’ political culture.”
“With his words and his actions, Thompson showed that he cared about getting caught, not about what was right for the people and community he represented,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing in March. “He readily joined the ranks of corrupt public officials who have chosen to line their pockets at the public’s expense.”
Thompson met with the informant and another unnamed individual early in October 2013 at Brookins’ ward office, according to court records. That’s when the informant showed Thompson a note that read, “$7,500 to Ald for L.O.S.” Thompson took it to mean the informant was offering to pay $7,500 for a letter of support from the alderman, records show. Thompson said he understood and said he’d bring the proposal to his boss.
Documents then describe an Oct. 29, 2013, meeting between Thompson, Brookins, the informant and another unnamed individual in Brookins’ ward office. There, the informant handed the alderman a sheet of paper containing a photograph of a liquor store with a Post-It note attached sideways that read “$12K to you for letter of support.”
Brookins could be seen on video looking at the document and turning his head slightly sideways before eventually handing it off to the unnamed individual in the meeting. The paper was then passed to Thompson, who later told someone working with the informant that the informant needed to “quit writing things down.”
Over the next few weeks, Thompson prepared two letters of support for the informant on Brookins’ letterhead, signing Brookins’ name. Before doing so, he sought Brookins’ approval, records show. Thompson knew the informant later picked them up and planned to use them to obtain a liquor license for his proposed store.
Finally, on Dec. 19, 2013, prosecutors said the informant handed Thompson a Christmas card in a red envelope at Brookins’ holiday party.
It was filled with 75 $100 bills.
Thompson said “thank you,” according to prosecutors.
“I really appreciate you, brother,” Thompson said. “I got you back . . . I do all the work with little acknowledgement, so I don’t know how long I’m gonna be around.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2015. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)