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Sanchez on Trial

By Kevin Robinson in News on Mar 11, 2009 2:20PM

Photo by Doc18
The past few days of testimony in the Al Sanchez corruption trial have been wrought with allegations - both against Sanchez and the mayor, as well as other, lesser players in the HDO drama. The allegations that federal prosecutors made include the promise of city jobs should Richard Daley win election in 1989. "My understanding was that we would eventually get some political jobs, city jobs" if Daley became mayor, said Raymond Gamboa, a deputy commissioner in the city's General Services Department. Gamboa was describing a meeting that took place in a Southeast side bar in the late 1980's. Gamboa and Sanchez were part of a Hispanic group that was recruited to support the then-State's Attorney for mayor. That group eventually merged with other pro-Daley groups on the South side to become the Hispanic Democratic Organization.

Another witness in the case, Roberto Medina, a retired Human Services Department employee, told the court that he helped found the "HDO North", Medina alleged that he met at a Fullerton Avenue restaurant with Timothy Degnan, then a state senator and top Daley strategist, the mayor's brother William Daley, Luis Gutierrez and future mayoral Cabinet member Ben Reyes. Medina maintained that the HDO was a path to city jobs. "If we were recommending somebody, that person had a leg up on anybody who came in that we didn't know," he testified. Regardless, Medina also was adamant that he acted as a community activist, not a political hack. "I'm a community activist," he said. "As a matter of fact, I don't even like politicians," adding that "I can walk out of here with my head held high," noting that he supported Daley because he was responsive to the needs of the Hispanic community. "I was doing it for my community and for my people."

Prosecutors also introduced into evidence a fundraising letter from 1993 written on HDO letterhead and signed by Ken Meyer, now an aide in the Mayor's office. The letter says that "HDO is a political action committee that was formed as a result of Mayor Daley's successful 1989 and 1991 mayoral campaigns...The main purpose of the HDO is to assist in the re-election of Mayor Daley and with the election of other quality candidates who will help promote the issues and goals of the community."

In spite of the lack of a smoking gun, politicians whose names came up in testimony reacted angrily to the allegations. Bill Daley denied any wrongdoing. "You're talking about 20 years ago," Daley told the Tribune. "Even if it happened, and I'm not saying it did, things were different. There was nothing illegal about that stuff." And Gutierrez, who has in recent years butted heads with the HDO, said "I'd sue for slander, given that I was never at the meeting, but the settlement would be about as worthless as the witness' memory," adding "given its history, it should never have existed." Mayor Daley, in the same press conference where Desmond Tutu absolved the media of sin, refused to comment. "Let the trial go on. He's in the trial. We cannot comment on an impending trial."