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Ex-alderman went along with bribery plan - thought it would never go: attorney

Former Ald. Ambrosio Medrano

Former Ald. Ambrosio Medrano

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Updated: June 4, 2013 1:50PM

Disgraced former Chicago Ald. Ambrosio Medrano went along with a plan to bribe a Los Angeles County official because he believed the official didn’t exist and that the bribe would never be delivered, his attorney says.

Lawyer Gal Pissetzky — fighting to keep the previously convicted Medrano from returning to federal prison on a new charge — said that even though an undercover FBI agent promised any money Medrano and his associates handed over would be passed on to the public official, Medrano believed he was paying for “100 percent legal. . .lobbying.”

During an hour-long opening statement on the second day of what’s expected to be a two-week trial, Pissetzky described Medrano, 59, as a “loving husband, father and grandfather” who was dedicated to “serving his community” and never would have conspired to pay bribes to win a contract to supply prescription drugs via mail order, as prosecutors allege he did last year.

Pre-trial rulings made by Judge John Tharp mean jurors won’t hear about Medrano’s 1996 conviction for accepting a $31,000 bribe while serving on the Chicago City Council.

Even so, Medrano’s legal team faces an uphill battle, given the potentially damning secretly recorded conversations he had about the alleged kickback scheme at locations including Nuevo Leon restaurant in Pilsen and Tuscany in Little Italy.

Pissetzky and Richard McLeese, who is representing Medrano’s codefendant Gus Buenrostro, both argue that an undercover FBI agent who posed as an “overzealous salesman” willing to pass on bribes to an unnamed L.A. County official, did not completely convince their clients.

Though neither Medrano or Buenrostro believed the agent knew the official, nor that he would pass on a $10,000 bribe, they did think he knew the California healthcare system and could “open doors” and seal the deal, Pissetzky said.

“Ambrosio Medrano knew how to filter out the exaggerations of a sales person from the details of a truly good deal,” he said. He added that Sav-Rx, the company Medrano and Buenrostro wanted to get the contract, was a “great product” that “sold itself — it didn’t need any bribe.”

Sav-Rx’s owner, Jim Barta, is also charged in the alleged scheme. His lawyer argued Monday that he was a rural Nebraskan with “American values” who was sucked in by Chicago “hustlers.”

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