Chicago alderman rejects plea deal; heads to trial

CHICAGO — A prominent Chicago alderman has turned down a plea agreement in his federal corruption case that his lawyer says could have meant little to no prison time and will go to trial instead.

Willie B. Cochran's lawyer informed the judge of his client's decision Wednesday during a change-of-plea hearing where the 65-year-old Democrat was expected to enter a guilty plea.

After first huddling with assistant U.S. prosecutors in a hallway, defense lawyer Christopher Grohman told the judge prosecutors made an offer on a plea deal and Cochran rejected it.

Cochran's multicount indictment accuses him of stealing money from a charitable fund, spending some of it at casinos.

Grohman says the deal required a guilty plea to one fraud count. A fraud conviction carries a 20-year maximum sentence, though guidelines would recommend far less time.

The U.S. attorney's office declined any comment.