Cochran not stepping down despite indictment on 15 counts of wire fraud, bribery, extortion
Chicago Alderman Willie Cochran was indicted on federal charges as filed by a special June 2015 grand jury examining allegations against the 20th Ward alderman in U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division.
Cochran allegedly stole $30,000 from a fund intended to help children and senior citizens, using $5,000 for his daughter's college tuition and withdrawing $25,000 from ATMs near casinos.
Those funds were intended for a seniors Valentine's Day event, a back-to-school picnic, school supplies and warm jackets for children.
The alderman's defense attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, indicated that Cochran will plead not guilty at the arraignment. On the day of his indictment, Cochran attended the regularly scheduled Council meeting.
"I was elected to be there and represent the ward as I have been. I didn’t hesitate to go to Council," Cochran told the Sun-Times. "I’m surprised (anyone) would think I shouldn’t be there.”
After the resolution praising the Chicago Cubs for their World Series win was read, Cochran left the Council meeting. Several hours after telling reporters he would have no comment until after he read the indictment, he texted the Chicago Sun-Times: "Yes, I will remain. You resign when you are guilty. Indictments are not guilty pleas. I’m confident these allegations will be resolved."
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Chicago's former legislative inspector general, Faisal Khan, was instrumental in the FBI investigation. That Chicago office is now defunct. Khan is the CEO of Project Six, which continues the same work as his previous office. The nonpartisan organization works to expose government corruption.
“The charges against Alderman Cochran unfortunately show the blatant and systematic disregard for ethics and campaign finance law that so many elected officials have displayed,” Khan said. “As legislative inspector general, I was charged to help restore ethics and accountability to the Chicago City Council. In a city that is known for its history of corruption, that is easier said than done.”
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