New details of a federal probe of alleged misconduct by former U.S. Sen. Roland Burris have emerged on the eve of a trial of a Chicagoan accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Lawyers for C. Gregory Turner — who’s accused of trying to help lift U.S. sanctions against Mugabe’s regime — say they were handed evidence against Burris by federal prosecutors on Thursday, just four days before Turner’s trial is due to begin.
Burris is expected to be a key government witness against Turner, but at an emergency hearing Friday morning, lawyer James Tunick told U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo that the previously undisclosed probe of Burris raises “very serious” questions about his “misconduct” and credibility.
Prosecutors Barry Jonas and Georgia Alexakis said most of the documents handed to Turner’s lawyers Thursday relate to the federal probe of Burris’s controversial appointment by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to the U.S. Senate in 2008, which was already “in the public domain.” But they also acknowledged that there is also new information about a second probe of Burris, which they described as “sensitive” and said should not be discussed in open court.
Details of the new allegations against Burris weren’t discussed publicly Friday morning, but after Tunick passed the judge a three-page document that details the new allegations, the judge’s eyes bulged and she appeared to stare pointedly at prosecutors.
“As you can see, it’s very serious,” Tunick told her.
Turner’s lawyers have previously alleged that another politician prosecutors intend to call as a witness against Turner, State Sen. Donne Trotter, took a $2,000 cash bribe from Turner’s co-defendant as part of an FBI sting and failed to disclose it.
They want the judge to bar Burris from testifying, saying they received the information about the probe too late to prepare for trial and that his motivation for testifying is compromised by the federal probe.
Bucklo ordered both sides to return at 3 p.m. so that they can discuss the matter further.
Source: Chicago SunTimes