Lawyers for indicted Ald. Carrie Austin say she’s medically unfit for trial, plans to retire in March

https://ift.tt/eFlUJbC

Lawyers for indicted Ald. Carrie Austin, who has already announced she won’t run for reelection, said in a court filing Friday she is medically unfit for trial and will retire from the City Council after the citywide elections in February.

Austin, 73, and her top aide, Chester Wilson, were indicted in June 2021 on charges they shepherded a new real estate development through the City Hall approval process beginning in 2016 and were given home improvement perks from a developer seeking to influence them. They have pleaded not guilty.

In a motion Friday afternoon, Austin’s attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, asked that her case be severed from Wilson’s and that she be declared medically unfit for trial due to chronic and worsening heart failure, as well as breathing condition “that makes her feel like she is drowning when she lays down, so she can only sleep in a recliner.”

Durkin wrote that the request was made “out of an abundance of concern that Ms. Austin simply will not make it through the stress of trial or the difficult pretrial preparation.”

“Neither this court, nor the government, should risk the loss of a life over these charges,” the motion stated. “Failing to resolve them may disappoint both parties, but such a failure will not cause the collapse of our Republic.”

Attached to the motion was a letter Austin sent to Mayor Lori Lightfoot announcing that she will be retiring effective March 1, a week after the city council election.

Durkin said in the motion that Austin decided to stick out most of the rest of her term on a reduced schedule so that voters can decide on who the alderman of the newly drawn 21st Ward will be, rather than resign now and have Lightfoot appoint somebody.

Austin, who has served as 34th Ward alderman for nearly 30 years, was herself appointed to the position by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley in July 1994, to fill the seat of her late husband, Lemuel Austin, who died suddenly from a heart attack at 48.

Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, at the city council meeting at City Hall in Chicago on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune)

Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, at the city council meeting at City Hall in Chicago on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune) (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Her health problems came to the forefront last December when she collapsed in her seat during a City Council meeting and was wheeled out on a stretcher. After the council meeting concluded, Lightfoot remarked that aldermen showed an “outpouring of humanity” for their colleague.

Afternoon Briefing

Daily


Chicago Tribune editors’ top story picks, delivered to your inbox each afternoon.

“Alderman Austin has been through a lot,” Lightfoot said at the time. “I wish her godspeed, but I think really, it spoke to the humanity that we can never lose, even as public officials, even as we’re going through challenging issues and contentious issues at times.”

Austin was charged with one count of conspiring to use interstate facilities to promote bribery and other charges, among a string of sitting Chicago alderman to face federal criminal charges in recent years. Wilson, 56, of Chicago, was hit with bribery charges and one count of theft of government funds.

The central developer in the indictment, now deceased, was working on a 91-unit project in Austin’s Far South Side ward. According to the indictment, the developer provided Austin with improvements at her home and Wilson at an investment property he owns.

Between them, they received with new kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, bathroom tiling, sump pumps and an HVAC system for free or at a discount, according to the charges.

U.S. District Judge John Kness has not set a trial date.

The Tribune’s Alice Yin contributed.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

Chi,Feeds,Chi Trib,City: Chicago

via Home – Chicago Tribune https://ift.tt/GMiZFbA

November 18, 2022 at 05:42PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s