CHICAGO — The federal trial of former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke resumed on Monday with testimony from a former employee of the Field Museum.
The former alderman is charged with 14 counts of racketeering, bribery and extortion and one of the four alleged schemes involved the Field Museum.
Burke allegedly wanted his goddaughter to be considered for an internship at the museum and she did not get the position.
Federal prosecutors laid out their case that the former alderman used his position of power and threatened to block a source of funding for the museum.
The jury followed along with transcripts of the recordings, which were heard for the first time on Monday. The recordings came from Burke’s phone which had been secretly wiretapped by the FBI.
Prosecutors played a call between Burke and the former president and CEO of the museum after Burke’s goddaughter, Molly Gabinski, applied for an internship at the museum. The application had slipped through the cracks and Gabinski didn’t get the position.
Prosecutors allege that afterward, an irate Burke threatened to use his influence to block the museum’s plan for a ticket fee increase.
“I said ‘Of course,’ Richard is a very good friend of mine and if the Field Museum is asking for applications to fill these interns, I’m sure that if I call him he’ll give her every consideration,” Burke was heard saying in the recorded call.
The Museum’s governmental Affairs Director, Deborah Bekken, had called Burke earlier to discuss a proposal to raise fees at the museum.
“I was quite disappointed and surprised that I never heard another word after my initial request. So now you’re going to make a request of me?” Burke said.
From the witness stand, Bekken said: “I perceived it as a threat. I perceived him to be very upset because of an internship application that we had not acted on,” Bekken said from the witness stand.
Burke’s defense attorneys argued that his only interest in the admission fees was to protect Chicago families from high fees and had previously said that while the angry phone call was harsh, it was not criminal. His attorneys also argued that Burke never proposed any sort of “quid pro quo” deal that would have tied the fee increase to the internship.
The park district ultimately approved the admission price increase at the museum and Burke’s goddaughter never got a job there.
The trial is expected to resume on Tuesday.
Burke and his two co-defendants pleaded not guilty in the trial that started last week.