Some 'Splainin' to do in ChicagoBy Lee Cary & Marty Watters
On February 27, a Chicagoland website, Illinois PayToPlay, cited the star witness in the Operation Gambit trials of the early '90s, Robert Cooley, as a primary source for the news that Daniel Frawley says he gave $400,000 in cash to Tony Rezko, who then passed it on to Barack Obama.
In case you missed Cooley's story, James Peterson, writing for Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism, noted that "[i]n the mid-1980's, Chicago Outfit Lawyer Robert Cooley voluntarily went undercover for the FBI as part of an investigation called Operation Gambat. Cooley wore a wire on, among others, [Alderman Ed] Burke's good friend and made-man, Alderman Fred Roti. The Chief Judge of Cook County's Chancery Court and an Assistant Senate Majority Leader of the Illinois State Senate were also targeted. Cooley's work eventually led to the only judge in U.S. history being convicted of fixing a murder trial."
Cooley is a Chicago legend.
As the star witness for the prosecution back then, Cooley's credibility was validated by 26 convictions. Now, Cooley is back on the Chicago scene along with news that leaves a number of current, and former, Chicagoans with some splainin' to do. Among the short list are these persons of interest.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald: It requires what one well-known politician once called "the willing suspension of disbelief" to think that the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) was unaware of this allegation by Frawley. Did Fitzgerald's staff investigate it? Or did this fall into the "Wired for Silence: Fitzgerald's Rezko Watchers" arrangement, recently suggested in the Chicago Daily Observer, where three key moles close to Rezko never testified in Rezko's trial, nor were any conversations they taped made public?
Chicago Sun-Times: A July 11, 2011 Times article stated that, "Details about Frawley's cooperation with the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI and the Illinois attorney general's office can be gleaned from a 65-page court deposition he gave seven months ago in a legal-malpractice lawsuit that he filed against his former longtime lawyer, George Weaver. In the lawsuit, Frawley accuses Weaver of having overbilled him and telling him to 'withhold certain information from the government' when he was cooperating with authorities."
What "certain information?" Did the Sun-Times aggressively pursue an answer to that question, or merely "glean"?
That 65-page deposition was executed on December 1, 2010 -- but hold that thought.
Attorney Daniel F. Konicek: He represented Frawley's former lawyer, George Weaver, in the deposition. The Times highlighted the following exchange between Konicek and Frawley: "Later in the deposition, Weaver's lawyer, Daniel F. Konicek, asks Frawley about what specific information Weaver is supposed to have told Frawley to withhold from federal authorities. 'I'm assuming the information is about the payments made by Rezko to Obama, so we know we're talking about the right conversation, right?' Konicek asks Frawley. Frawley doesn't answer. So Konicek presses him: 'Am I correct it was about Obama being paid by Rezko?' Frawley replies: 'I'm not answering that question, based upon my attorney's instructions.'"
Where did that question come from? Konicek? Weaver? Did Konicek expect Frawley to answer?
Makes you wonder: was the whole deposition a kabuki dance intended to send a message to the USAO, and others, that Frawley knows some things, and might tell them to the world if he gets jammed up by the feds?
Back to Patrick Fitzgerald: Not two months after the December 2010 deposition, Frawley was hit with a bank fraud charge that was past the statute of limitations. Coincidence?
Or was it payback for filing the Weaver lawsuit, and a warning to Frawley that he'd better keep his mouth shut about the $400,000...and who knows what else? (Like maybe something about Companion Security?)
Meanwhile, Frawley's sentencing on the charge to which he pled guilty on February 14, 2011 has been repeatedly postponed. It's now set for April 16, 2012, 9:30 .am., in Judge Ronald A. Guzman's courtroom.
Makes you wonder: does the USAO hold a Sword of Damocles over Frawley's head aimed to keep him quiet past the next election? Why until then? Because after November, however the election turns out, no one will care what Frawley has to say about Obama's history in Chicago.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn McNiven: McNiven dealt with all three Rezko Watchers. She was originally listed as second attorney on the Daniel Mahru case and as lead attorney on the case against Bernard T. Thomas, Jr. (AKA John Thomas) and Louis Giordano, and she was the handler for Frawley when he was wearing a wire, according to the deposition mentioned above.
McNiven has since left the USAO and become a partner in the huge and prestigious (former Senators Tom Daschle and George Mitchell are partners) law firm of DLA Piper.
Was McNiven aware of Frawley's accusation about the $400K?
Antoin "Tony" Rezko: Has the USAO ever asked Tony about any of this? He's living near Pekin, Illinois in a federal cell. He's easy to find. Not too late to ask him. Better hurry, though, because after the November election he may be pardoned by his friend the president. (McNiven was lead attorney representing the USAO when charges were brought against Tony.)
Then there's the...
Chicago Big Media: Why did it take an obscure website to break this story when the Sun-Times has those three-musketeer journalists they call the WATCHDOGS? And when the Trib has equally dogged sleuths like John Kass and John Chase?
Did either paper have knowledge concerning what Illinois Pay To Play reported and decide to sit on the information?
Thanks to the legendary Bob Cooley, yet again, some current and former Chicagoans got some 'splainin' to do. But, what we'll most likely hear instead is the sound of crickets.
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