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Lawyer: Todd Stroger is real target in county contract case

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
by Natasha Korecki

Todd Stroger may be angling to head back into public service at a time when he could be heading into the federal fray. A September federal trial for his longtime friend and top county aide Eugene Mullins promises to make Stroger the marquee name as the defense lawyer for his buddy said it’s the former Cook County board president who the feds are really after.

Mullins’ attorney, Brunell L. Donald-Kyei, said on Monday that Stroger would end up in the witness chair for the defense. “We don’t have a choice but to call Todd Stroger,” Donald-Kyei told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Donald-Kyei maintains that federal prosecutors really had their sights on Stroger and asked her client to cooperate against the ousted board chief just weeks ago.

On Friday, Stroger told the Sun-Times he was lobbying committeemen to appoint him to the Cook County board to fill a vacancy left by Cook County Commissioner William Beavers. Beavers was convicted Thursday in a federal tax case.

Stroger has already provided an affidavit for the defense, which “essentially destroyed” the indictment, she claimed. In it, Stroger laid out Mullins’ powers with the county as his chief media spokesman, and they did not include having authority over contracts, she said.

Federal authorities allege Mullins, Stroger’s best friend since childhood, accepted thousands of dollars while still working for the county in exchange for steering government contracts to four men.

In announcing the charges last year, officials said in a written statement that between January 2010 and January 2011, “Mullins allegedly used his county position to submit and cause others to submit false documents to the county to assist the four co-defendants in obtaining professional and managerial service contracts and payment from the county.”

He’s accused of taking $34,700 in exchange for improperly steering four county contracts for disaster relief, energy grants and census work. Donald-Kyei characterized her client as a “casualty of war,” saying when Mullins was arrested last year, investigators immediately asked whether Mullins had passed any kickbacks to Stroger. Mullins has denied any scheme.

Asked if she believed investigators were still interested in Stroger, Donald-Kyei said: “Is the sky blue?” She offered as evidence that in a meeting with prosecutors last month, “We were told if we had anything else we wanted to share, we were welcome to come to talk further. Who do you think they want to hear about?”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office had no comment.

For his part, Stroger said he had no hand in wrongdoing, has not had any contact with authorities and did not have a criminal lawyer. “Sometimes things happen — and I’m not the one to say guilty or innocent — but things happen in administrations, but I don’t think that’s a reflection on me,” Stroger said of the charges against his friend. “That’s nothing on me.”

Asked if he could say that the investigation would not lead to him, Stroger said: “No, it certainly will not be. As a matter of fact, this has been going on for two years, I believe.”

“Why hasn’t the U.S. Attorney called Todd Stroger?” Mullins’ lawyer said. “Why didn’t they ask him what happened? Why? Because he’s the target. They don’t want the truth, they want his head, that’s all.”

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