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Jury finds ex-Chicago alderman guilty in federal bribery case

Former Ald. Ambrosio Medrano

Former Ald. Ambrosio Medrano

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Updated: July 19, 2013 6:21AM

It takes something special to stand out as a dirty alderman in a city that has seen 30 current or former City Council members convicted of corruption since 1972.

But disgraced former Ald. Ambrosio Medrano managed it Monday, when he became the first to be convicted twice in two separate cases.

He was caught taking bribes as a sitting alderman and sentenced to two-and-a-half years behind bars in 1996. He was this time found guilty of conspiring to dish bribes out in an attempt to snare a lucrative Los Angeles County medical contract.

The 59-year-old showed no emotion as 12 jurors stood up one by one to confirm that they supported a verdict that condemns him and two co-defendants to up to five years in prison.

Dressed in a slate blue suit, he then fled the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in a hurry without making comment.

Prosecutors hailed the verdict — which jurors reached after less than five hours of deliberations at the end of a two-week trial — as an emphatic rejection of Medrano’s defense that he was unfairly led on by an undercover FBI agent.

“The FBI simply provided an opportunity for these individuals to do what they did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Stetler said.

“It was Ambrosio Medrano’s idea from the very beginning.”

Secretly recorded videos played during the trial showed Medrano and co-defendants Gus Buenrostro and Jim Barta plotting to pay a $10,000 bribe to an L.A. County official to fix a contract for Barta’s business.

At one point Medrano was shown suggesting the plotters seal the deal by cutting their fingers in a Mafia-style blood oath, while in another he suggested disguising the bribe as a “golf outing” ticket. “That’s what’s popular in Chicago,” he told the undercover agent.

Medrano’s attorney, Gal Pissetzky, vowed to appeal the verdict, telling reporters, “The battle is not over.”

But Medrano still faces yet another corruption trial on separate allegations connected to kickbacks on a contract for bandages at Cook County’s Stroger Hospital — holding out the possibility that he could yet achieve an unprecedented “three-peat.”

University of Illinois at Chicago Prof. and former Ald. Dick Simpson — who co-authored a study of the history corruption on the City Council in 2009 — said that Medrano was “beyond dumb” to try to pay bribes after he’d already served federal time.

He noted that the low recidivism rate among alderman was ”partly because of their age when they are convicted.”

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