Fast Ed­die’s big se­cret still safe with him

Chicago Sun-Times - - POLITICS ANOTHER VIEW - MARK BROWN Fol­low Mark Brown on Twit­ter: @MarkBrownCST Email: mark­brown@suntimes. com

Afed­eral court fil­ing this week came a tan­ta­liz­ing step closer to re­veal­ing the mys­tery of how for­mer Ald. Ed­ward R. Vr­dolyak in­sin­u­ated him­self into one of the big­gest le­gal fee jack­pots in his­tory.

At the same time, the new in­for­ma­tion from fed­eral prose­cu­tors left me think­ing they still don’t quite have the goods on Fast Ed­die and what may have been his sweet­est score.

Prose­cu­tors in­di­cated for the first time Mon­day they have in­for­ma­tion Vr­dolyak made cash pay­ments ex­ceed­ing $ 1 mil­lion to un­named “in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties” in con­nec­tion with his own un­ex­plained pay­day in the state’s $ 9.3 bil­lion to­bacco law­suit set­tle­ment.

The im­pli­ca­tion was clear that au­thor­i­ties be­lieve the $ 1 mil­lion­plus was a kick­back from Vr­dolyak to who­ever con­spired with him on the deal.

Au­thor­i­ties say Vr­dolyak and an­other lawyer have al­ready been paid more than $ 10 mil­lion from the set­tle­ment even though they did no work. Court records have in­di­cated he was due to col­lect even more.

The catch is that Vr­dolyak has not been charged with any­thing so damn­ing, and the only ev­i­dence of­fered of the cash kick­back was an emailed threat from Daniel P. Soso, his now co- de­fen­dant, to make pub­lic the se­cret ar­range­ment if Vr­dolyak didn’t pay him his share of the fees.

The ac­cu­sa­tion drew a sharp re­sponse from Vr­dolyak’s long­time de­fense lawyer and friend, Michael Mon­ico, who called it “ab­surd and ut­terly false.”

“And if they had a shred of cred­i­ble ev­i­dence of that, wouldn’t that have been in the in­dict­ment?” Mon­ico told the Chicago Sun- Times’ Jon Sei­del.

On that point, I have to say I find Mon­ico to be at least par­tially per­sua­sive.

If fed­eral prose­cu­tors had nailed down proof that Vr­dolyak re­ally did make the $ 1 mil­lion in cash pay­ments ( and to whom), I cer­tainly would have ex­pected them to make the case more strongly than with a ref­er­ence to Soso’s email con­tained in a small- type foot­note to Mon­day’s court fil­ing.

Lawyers for both sides hinted months ago that there could be an­other, more widerang­ing in­dict­ment com­ing in the case, which is sched­uled to go on trial in March. That hasn’t hap­pened.

Soso’s lawyers have in­di­cated they are work­ing on a plea agree­ment with fed­eral prose­cu­tors.

I sup­pose one in­ter­pre­ta­tion could be the foot­note ref­er­ence was a way of sig­nal­ing prose­cu­tors have a pa­per trail to sup­port Soso’s ac­count of what hap­pened, if he chooses to co­op­er­ate with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

I don’t doubt prose­cu­tors can con­vict Vr­dolyak of the less sexy tax charges he now faces.

What we all re­ally want to know, though, is how Vr­dolyak could have in­flu­enced the process by which the Illi­nois At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s of­fice, then run by Repub­li­can Jim Ryan, chose its lawyers on the to­bacco case. One of those lawyers, Seat­tle’s Steve Ber­man, made the se­cret deal to pay Vr­dolyak and Soso.

Prose­cu­tors have all but cleared Ryan of wrong­do­ing in the case, but some­body like Vr­dolyak could have found other pres­sure points ei­ther inside or out­side Ryan’s of­fice.

As I was pack­ing up my of­fice at work this week for our lat­est move, I ran across a piece of Vr­dolyak mem­o­ra­bilia.

It’s a memo pad from his last cam­paign. Printed at the top is: “ELECT for MAYOR VR­DOLYAK IN 89 Punch 15” Vr­dolyak lost badly to Richard M. Da­ley in that 1989 elec­tion, which es­sen­tially marked the end of his pub­lic life in pol­i­tics.

Yet he re­mained a force be­hind the scenes, do­ing deals, un­til he fi­nally got jammed up for a crooked one with busi­ness­man Stu­art Levine, a friend of Jim Ryan.

By the time Vr­dolyak is sched­uled to go on trial, he will have turned 80.

I was think­ing that I never grow tired of fol­low­ing his ex­ploits. He must feel the same way about keep­ing all those se­crets.

Ed­ward Vr­dolyak

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