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The Latest: Alderman rejects plea deal; heads to trial

November 28, 2018
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Alderman Willie Cochran exits the the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018 in Chicago. The prominent Chicago alderman has turned down a plea agreement in his federal corruption case that his lawyer says could have meant little to no prison time and will go to trial instead. Prosecutors allege the 65-year-old stole money from a charitable fund, spending some of it at casinos and using some for his daughter's college tuition. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — The Latest on hearing for a prominent Chicago alderman accused of corruption (all times local):

11:30 a.m.

A prominent Chicago alderman has turned down a plea agreement in his federal corruption case that his lawyer says could have meant little to no prison time and will go to trial instead.

Willie B. Cochran’s lawyer informed the judge of his client’s decision Wednesday during a change-of-plea hearing where the 65-year-old Democrat was expected to enter a guilty plea.

After first huddling with assistant U.S. prosecutors in a hallway, defense lawyer Christopher Grohman told the judge prosecutors made an offer on a plea deal and Cochran rejected it.

Cochran’s multicount indictment accuses him of stealing money from a charitable fund, spending some of it at casinos.

Grohman says the deal required a guilty plea to one fraud count. A fraud conviction carries a 20-year maximum sentence, though guidelines would recommend far less time.

The U.S. attorney’s office declined any comment.

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12:01 a.m.

A prominent Chicago alderman who pleaded not guilty earlier to corruption charges is scheduled to change his plea.

A change-of-plea hearing for Willie B. Cochran is scheduled for Wednesday in Chicago federal court. Filings don’t offer details, including what charges the Democrat might plead guilty to or whether it is part of a plea deal.

Prosecutors allege the 65-year-old stole money from a charitable fund, spending some of it at casinos and using some for his daughter’s college tuition. They say he demanded cash from an attorney for developers in exchange for taking action in his official capacity.

The 15-count indictment handed down in 2016 includes bribery and wire fraud counts.

Defense attorney Christopher Grohman informed the court in August that Cochran was talking to prosecutors about a plea agreement.

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