CHICAGO (CBS) — Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) and his attorneys are negotiating a potential plea deal with federal prosecutors, amid allegations he shook down businessmen in his ward for bribes, and looted money from a charity he ran.
Cochran confirmed the plea negotiations in a Twitter post Wednesday afternoon, after a status hearing on his case in federal court.
“Told the judge we were in negotiations and all parties agreed to continue to negotiate and return in 30 days with a decision,” Cochran posted.
In 2016, a 15-count indictment charged Cochran with wire fraud, bribery, and extortion. Federal prosecutors alleged the alderman solicited donations to the 20th Ward Activities Fund, a charity he ran, but used $5,000 from the fund to pay his daughter’s college tuition, and another $25,000 to gamble at casinos.
The indictment also alleges he demanded a $1,500 from an attorney for a real estate developr seeking to fix up vacant homes in his ward, and a $3,000 cash bribe from a liquor store owner seeking to sell his business to someone who needed a city liquor license.
Cochran, a former Chicago police sergeant, was elected alderman of the 20th Ward in 2007, defeating his predecessor, Ald. Arenda Troutman, who was facing bribery charges of her own at the time. She later was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.
Another former 20th Ward alderman, Cliff Kelley, was indicted in 1986 for bribery and income tax evasion. He was convicted a year later and served 9 1/2 months in prison.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Cochran is not planning to run for a fourth term next year.