by: Ellen Jean Hirst
After two days of deliberations, a federal jury on Wednesday found Eugene Mullins, a friend and onetime aide to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, guilty of seven of eight counts at his corruption trial.
Mullins was acquitted of one count of wire fraud but convicted of three other wire fraud counts and four counts of bribery. The charges stemmed from four contracts he was accused of steering toward contractors in exchange for nearly $35,000 in kickbacks.
Mullins faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud and 10 years in prison on each count of accepting a kickback. U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve set sentencing for Dec. 19.
The verdict follows a colorful trial in which defense attorneys told animated stories to illustrate their points. In closing arguments, Mullins’ attorney Brunell Donald-Kyei barked like a dog and later meowed to illustrate how four contractors changed their stories after being questioned by investigators.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Streicker and Lindsay Jenkins said they were pleased with the jury’s verdict. The not guilty verdict on the one mail fraud count and a detailed note jurors sent to the judge Tuesday show a “deliberate process” on the jury’s behalf, Jenkins said.
“We were after the corruption that took place in Cook County,” Jenkins said. “As a public official, he used the public trust for his gain.”
While Donald-Kyei has maintained since the beginning of the trial that Mullins was targeted for refusing to cooperate with authorities investigating Stroger, Jenkins said that was never the case.
“The case wasn’t about Todd Stroger. The case was about Eugene Mullins,” Jenkins said.
Donald-Kyei said she remained certain the case was more about Stroger than Mullins.
“I said that from the beginning when I first got it back last August, and I don’t think that has changed,” she said. “Even in Roman times … people went through trials and things like that for political reasons. I still believe it was about him.”
Mullins declined to comment after the verdict was announced. But as his attorneys said they still believed in his innocence, he stood behind them with his hands at his side, occasionally clenching his fists.
“As lawyers, we went in there and we fought,” Donald-Kyei said. “The jury made its decision, but that doesn’t change our belief in Eugene’s innocence.”
Donald-Kyei said the lawyers had not decided whether to appeal.
This article was written by Ellen Jean Hirst and originally published on chicagotribune