Chicago News Roundup: New Uncertainty Cast on Ald. Burke case, murder charges for aunt accused of throwing nephew off Navy Pier and more


Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. This is a roughly five minute read that will educate you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high of nearly 72 degrees. Tonight will be partly cloudy with a low near 49. Tomorrow will be partly sunny with a high near 74.

top story

Chicago judge named adviser to Chief Justice Roberts, creating new uncertainty in Burke case

A longtime federal judge in Chicago has agreed to serve as Chief Justice John Roberts’ chief of staff – and in doing so has thrown further uncertainty into the three-year-old racketeering case against Ald. Edward M. Burke.

The Supreme Court announced yesterday that U.S. District Judge Robert Dow Jr., who has served in Chicago since December 2007, has been named Roberts’ new adviser. The court said Dow would serve as Roberts’ chief of staff in that role. Dow is expected to assume the full-time position Dec. 5.

“I am grateful to Chief Justice Roberts for the opportunity to serve him, the Supreme Court and the judiciary in this new role,” Dow said in a statement released by the court.

Dow, who also teaches complex litigation as an adjunct professor at Northwestern University Law School, has handled several high-profile cases in federal court in Chicago. After holding a two-day public hearing, Dow approved the landmark 2019 consent decree that continues to govern the Chicago Police Department.

In 2020, Dow condemned the former Chicago Ald. Edward Vrdolyak to 18 months in prison for tax evasion. The judge then said he was “not going to send Mr. Vrdolyak to jail during COVID”, but ultimately insisted that the once-powerful politician begin serving his sentence in November 2021.

Although Dow denied a subsequent request by Vrdolyak for a humanitarian release, Vrdolyak found himself under the supervision of a halfway house after five months.

But especially lately, Dow has been presiding over Burke’s racketeering case since 2019. He dragged on for years in Dirksen’s federal courthouse thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and a mountain of preliminary motions filed in August 2020 that Dow didn’t rule on until last June.

Then, in July, Dow finally put Burke’s case to trial in November 2023. The timing means Burke has a shot at re-election while facing federal criminal charges for the second time. He was initially charged with attempted extortion in January 2019 and won re-election in February 2019.

However, it’s unclear if that timeline will hold, given Dow’s new position on the Supreme Court. Scheduling trials has been particularly difficult at Dirksen’s courthouse as officials try to clear a backlog created by the pandemic.

Jon Seidel shares more about what Dow’s new gig means for Ald. Burke here.

More news you need

  1. The charges have been upgraded to murder against a woman accused of pushing her 3-year-old nephew into Lake Michigan near Navy Pier late last month. She was due to appear in bond court again today.
  2. Chicago police have released photos of a van involved in a hit-and-run accident that killed a 15-month-old boy who ended up in traffic in Albany Park yesterday afternoon. Police say the boy was struck by a two-tone, dark-colored Ford pickup truck with a ladder on a metal frame in the back.
  3. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $242 million prepayment plan will prevent Chicago’s four cash-strapped pension funds from having to “sell assets in a bear market” to meet their obligations, the government said today. President of the Civic Federation. But Springfield shouldn’t be left behind, Laurence Msall told our Fran Spielman in a recent interview.
  4. A new documentary focuses on former Mayor Harold Washington’s tenure and the divisions he faced as Chicago’s first black mayor. “Punch 9 for Harold Washington” works as an invaluable reminder of this pivotal period for those who were there – and a history lesson for those who weren’t, writes our Richard Roeper in his 3.5-star review.

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A bright

Brilliant Brown Boys Book Club shows ‘reading is for everyone’

Chez Smith was volunteering at her son’s school when she noticed that when it came time for the boys to read, they treated it like a punishment. When the girls were asked to read, they were more than happy to immerse themselves in a book.

“So I was like, ‘What can we do to make reading fun? Smith asked his 11-year-old son, Chace. “He’s like, ‘We should have a club!'”

This was the start of the Brilliant Brown Boys Book Club, aimed at boys ages 8 to 13. The nonprofit, founded in Woodlawn in 2020, now has about 60 members, including some from out of state. The club’s next session kicks off in October, and Smith is busy sorting through applications.

Chez Smith, founder of the Brilliant Brown Boys Book Club, holds up Lebron James’ ‘I Promise’ as she stands in front of a shelf with books her program has placed in Urban Professional Grooming.

Tyler Pasciak LaRivière/Sun-Times

Smith sends free books to club members — books she has chosen for their positive portrayal of black male characters, so boys can see themselves portrayed. Then the boys get together on Zoom on Saturdays to talk about the books.

Every book club meeting is led by black men, including authors, teachers or actors.

“It’s not just the ability to read that’s important,” said Takeisa Sledge, the mother of a book club member. “Being able to understand is so important, so the discussion part is crucial. Programs like this are crucial for our black boys.

Mariah Rush has more on the program and its impact here.

From the press gallery

Your daily question☕

What should every Chicagoan know how to do?

Email us at [email protected] and we might feature your response in the next afternoon edition.

Yesterday we asked you: what should every driver in Chicago know before hitting the road?

Here’s what some of you said…

“The road might hit you back.” —Omar Ramos

“How to Navigate the Lower Wacker.” —Laura Kotelman

“How to read parking signs (which are often contradictory). How to dispute a parking ticket. Where is the towing yard (Lower Wacker) and how to get there. —Roberta Capello

“Every driver should know that I-94 W is north and I-94 E is south.” —James Straus

“Sometimes on the Dan Ryan, the local exit lane moves faster during rush hour than the express lanes.” —Kelly Fleming

“I-290 will always be congested, day or night. So bring a light snack. — Karman Kennedy

“The speed limit signs on the Edens are only a suggestion.” —James Kimmel

“In winter, leave two hours in advance.” —Stephanie Iniguez

“Learn to avoid potholes.” —Moiria Jones Gildemeister

“Wait a moment after the light turns green, someone always blows the red.” —Alyssa Drugis Griggs

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