CHICAGO – The lawyer for a former Chicago alderman accused of conspiring to bribe a Los Angeles official to land a lucrative health care contract told jurors his client can't be guilty because he never believed a fictitious public official at the center of an FBI sting was real.
The argument came during closings at Ambrosio Medrano's federal trial in Chicago, where he was charged last year with multiple counts, including conspiring to commit bribery.
Medrano, now 59, spent nearly two years in prison after pleading guilty in 1996 in the government's Operation Silver Shovel investigation into payoffs to aldermen and other Chicago-area politicians.
In this case, prosecutors say Medrano and two businessmen paid $6,500 to an undercover agent posing as a sales rep; he said he'd use it to bribe a Los Angeles official. But it was all part of the sting, in which the men dealt with the mediator but never with any official.
After closings wrapped up Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp read jury instructions to the panelists. The jury's first full day of deliberations will begin Monday morning.
Earlier, one of Medrano's attorneys, John De Leon, told jurors that Medrano thought the business deal was "legit" but never believed the supposedly well-connected official actually existed. And that, the attorney went on, goes to an issue at the core of the case: intent.
"If you don't believe a person existed, you can't form the intent to bribe," he said.
But a prosecutor said Medrano and the other men expressed a reluctance to meet the official because they calculated that being seen with him could raise suspicions they were involved in an illegal scheme, not because they thought he wasn't real.
"They knew what they were doing was wrong," prosecutor Chris Stetler said.
As he spoke, Medrano sat at a defense table, kept his head down and fidgeted with a piece of paper.
In his closing, De Leon gave nicknames to the main figures in the case. And he called his own client "anxious Ambrosio," saying he was eager to a fault to profit in what he thought was a legitimate deal.
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