Ald. Cochran to plead guilty

Ald. Willie Cochran speaks to Jeanette Taylor, a Woodlawn resident who is running for his 20th Ward Aldermanic position, during a Woodlawn community meeting at the AKArama Foundation Community Service Center, 6220 S. Ingleside Ave., on October 15, 2018. (Herald file photo by Marc Monghan)

Staff Writer

First, he agreed to take a plea deal. Then he rejected it. Now lame-duck Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) has a date, March 21, to change his plea to guilty again before U.S. District Court Judge Jorge L. Alonzo in a suit about his alleged solicitation of bribes and improper personal use of charitable funds.

Cochran will be the third 20th Ward alderman since 1987 to leave office tainted by a corruption scandal. Since federal prosecutors charged him in December 2016, he has taken a low profile in his ward and City Hall, appearing at community meetings over new University of Chicago construction in northern Woodlawn and on the 61st Street Streetscape Master Plan but playing no prominent role on issues concerning the Obama Presidential Center.

Jeanette Taylor, who finished first in the Feb. 26 election to succeed him, is a veteran community activist who pointedly supports the OPC community benefits agreement (CBA). She faces educator Nicole Johnson, who also supports the CBA, in the April 2 runoff.

Cochran’s attorney said he was negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors last August, but they rejected in in November; a trial had been set for this coming June.

The 20th Ward is based in Woodlawn and stretches into parts of Washington Park, Englewood and Back of the Yards. The Herald has requested comment from Cochran’s ward office.