CHICAGO, DEC. 19 -- Top federal law enforcement officials announced indictments of five local political figures here today in what the U.S. attorney described as "a movable feast" of corruption that included the alleged fixing of two murder trials.
The indictments, returned by a federal grand jury, were announced by Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director William S. Sessions and U.S. Attorney Fred Foreman at a news conference.
"Whatever kind of corruption you wanted, you could get," Foreman said, adding that "this movable feast went from Springfield to City Hall to the Circuit Court of Cook County." He described the five men as "a group of highly sophisticated fixers."
The indictments included charges of racketeering, bribery, extortion and tax fraud, and were returned against First Ward Alderman Fred Roti; Pasquale "Pat" Marcy, secretary of the First Ward Regular Democratic Organization; former Cook County Circuit Court Judge David J. Shields; state Sen. John A. D'Arco Jr. (D), and Pasquale "Pat" F. DeLeo, a politically active lawyer.
Federal authorities named the investigation that led to today's indictments "Operation Gambat," but it is better known locally as "Operation Kaffee Klatch" because of the discovery last year of a hidden video camera and recording equipment in a restaurant across the street from City Hall.
The camera was trained on a table near the front of the popular Counsellors Row restaurant where Roti, Marcy and other First Ward political figures routinely met for morning coffee and lunch. Roti and the others did not meet at the restaurant today, but Roti did vow to seek reelection in city elections later this year.
"An indictment is not a conviction," he said.
The charges against Roti, 70, and Marcy, 77, included their alleged acceptance of $75,000 to fix a 1981 murder trial of three members of a Chicago Chinatown gang. Marcy was also accused of accepting money to fix the 1977 murder trial of a reputed organized crime hit man and to fix the 1986 trial of another man on charges of attempted murder.
In all three cases, the defendants were acquitted by Cook County judges in nonjury trials.
Shields, 58, and DeLeo, 45, were accused of accepting $11,000 in payoffs from a lawyer who was acting as an FBI undercover agent to fix a civil case in which Shields was the presiding judge. Shields lost a judicial election last month.
D'Arco, 46, was charged with accepting $7,500 from the same undercover agent to introduce legislation in Springfield that would have allowed a travel insurance business to sell insurance without a required state license.
All five men are politically active and prominent in Chicago's First Ward, which includes the downtown area. First Ward politicians have long been accused of having links with organized crime, but Thornburgh steadfastly refused to make that connection.
"Stay tuned," he said when asked about possible future indictments.
The judges in the murder trials that were allegedly fixed were not named in today's indictments, but Foreman and others noted that the investigation is continuing. The judge in the 1977 trial, Frank J. Wilson, was retired and killed himself in Arizona last February. The judge in the 1981 murder trial, Thomas Maloney, retired from the bench earlier this month.
Despite Chicago's reputation for political and judicial corruption, Thornburgh said today's indictments should not be seen as evidence that the city is more corrupt than other urban centers.
"That would be an easy conclusion to come to, but I don't think it would be a fair conclusion," he said.