On a Saturday night in July 2019, Chicago police officers raided two West Garfield Park flats owned by Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) and his wife, Darlena Williams-Burnett, are wanted for drug dealers selling heroin, marijuana and other drugs.
Police arrested two men and seized 3 ounces of marijuana, 16 pills of ecstasy, and 13 tablets.
Weeks later, City Hall attorneys working for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who had been in office since May, sued Burnett, a member of the Chicago City Council, for violating the city’s Drug and Gang House Ordinance. taking the unusual step of alleging that and seeking fines of more than $40,000 for maintaining what he called a “public nuisance”.
Two months later, the police again raided two flats. They arrested Burnett’s tenant – a woman on parole who police said had 2.5 grams of heroin and three handguns – and two men they said were found to have small amounts of crack cocaine and ecstasy.
Two police raids, lawsuits and a court order that barred anyone from living in the two-flat for a year came months after Burnett publicly endorsed Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle’s 2019 mayoral election defeat Done, Lightfoot’s first run for mayor.
In contrast to the high-profile FBI raids months earlier on the offices of two other city council members — Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) and Eld. Carrie Austin (34th), who faces federal charges in separate political corruption cases—the arrest and drug seizures at a two-flat owned by Burnett—and the Lightfoot administration’s lawsuit against the couple did not make news at the time. . The Chicago Sun-Times discovered the Lightfoot administration’s lawsuit against Burnett while reporting on a story published in November about what Burnett had done with a $300,000 campaign contribution he had previously disclosed.
Lightfoot declined to comment when asked about the matter. The mayor referred questions to his press office, which did not respond to questions.
Burnett and his attorney, Thomas Raines, did not respond to questions about the police raid.
Burnett is now a Lightfoot collaborator. On December 27, he made his first campaign contribution for mayor – $10,000.
Williams-Burnett, a real estate developer, was once Cook County’s chief deputy recorder of deeds and ran unsuccessfully for Congress. She also runs a political fund called the Chicago Intellect Political Action Committee, which contributed $40,000 to Preckwinkle’s campaign about two weeks before she lost to Lightfoot.
When asked about the police raid and trial, Williams-Burnett at first declined to comment.
Later, she sent a text message to a reporter, saying, “My husband did not want to buy the property because it was located in a drug-infested neighborhood and if I had heard his concerns, you would have joined them in yours.” Were not trying.” drug dealer or a bad landlord.
Running unopposed in the February 28 city election, Burnett, 59, is guaranteed an eighth term.
This would make him the longest-serving current member of the Chicago City Council, with Burke and Austin opting not to seek re-election as they fight criminal charges they face.
The two-flat lawsuit was the fourth filed against Burnett by City Hall since she was first elected to city council in 1995. Fulton St. The other two lawsuits were filed in 1995 and 1997 by the Daley administration, but Lightfoot administration officials said they were unable to find records about them.
In the summer of 2019, a Chicago police investigation found that heroin and other drugs were being sold from a first-floor apartment there, according to police reports.
On July 3, 2019—about six weeks after Lightfoot took office and Burnett began her seventh term—a Cook County judge approved a search warrant for police to search the building.
At approximately 8:30 a.m. on July 6, 2019, when police went to execute a search warrant, a man identified as Michael Johnson jumped off the porch, ran inside and slammed the door, according to police reports, a The man, identified as Marcus Freerson Jr., ran down the gangway into the street, where officers apprehended him.
Police made their way to the first-floor apartment, where they reported finding more than 101 grams of marijuana, some of it packaged in 19 small plastic bags, and two plastic bags containing a total of 16 pills, which were was recognized as ecstasy. Police said they also found a full magazine clip for a 9mm handgun and 13 bullets for a .40-caliber handgun.
Freerson and Johnson, who Both had criminal records, were arrested, records show. Police reports indicate that Freerson lived in the Burnett apartment, and Johnson lived a block away.
Freerson, then 25, was charged with possession of marijuana and ecstasy and possession of ammunition without a firearm owner’s identification card. Johnson, 28 at the time, was charged with possession of a small amount of a substance believed to be crack cocaine. Those charges were dismissed a few weeks later.
On August 13, 2019, Burnett’s wife filed a lawsuit in Cook County to evict their first-floor tenant, Maritza Concepcion-Frearson, for failing to pay $1,900 in rent.
Two days later, Mark Flesner, who was then Lightfoot’s lead city hall attorney, filed suit against Burnett and his mortgage company, Wintrust Bank. The suit said Burnett “encouraged or allowed illegal activity” in the two-flat and sought fines in excess of $40,000 for breaching the Drug and Gang House Ordinance, which was enacted in 1992. Have been convicted of an armed robbery and convicted felons are prohibited from holding office, regardless of state law.
City Hall ordered Burnett to evict all tenants or guests involved in illegal activity, from installing security cameras outside the building, hiring armed security guards, and solving problems with the furnace to fixing “faulty light fixtures”. Many asked for repairs.
“I vaguely remember we raided a house [Burnett] Ownership,'” Flesner said in an interview. “I have probably spoken to the mayor about this. We probably won’t execute a search warrant on an alderman’s property without notifying the mayor’s staff.
Eddie Johnson, who was superintendent of police at the time of the raid, said he did not remember them: “Not familiar to any of them.”
On September 17, 2019, the city notified Burnett and his wife of the lawsuit, with Burnett’s aide leaving copies at his 27th Ward office at 4 N. Western Ave.
Police continued to monitor Burnett’s two-apartment, reporting that they saw Michael Johnson “going in and out” of the apartment for two days before issuing a second search warrant on 15 October 2019.
Johnson, who was arrested in the July raid, was arrested outside the apartment and refused to let police inside. When no one answered the door, police reports say officers forced their way inside and found seven people, including Concepcion-Freeerson, Marcus Freeerson Sr., Marcus Freeerson Jr., Tyshun Robertson, and a child.
They arrested Concepcion-Freerson, Johnson, and Robertson.
Johnson and Robertson were each convicted of drug possession and sent to prison for a year.
Concepion-Frierson—who was on parole , was charged with possession of 2.5 grams of heroin by a felony and three handcuff possession. Police said they also found $2,600 in cash and a credit card and driver’s license that bore Concepcion-Freerson’s picture but someone else’s name. A Cook County judge later found Concepcion-Freerson “not guilty”. of all charges.
Also as part of that raid, authorities said they seized 99 Valium pills, 77 Ecstasy pills, three grams of marijuana and a small amount of crack cocaine.
Four days after the raid, Burnett’s wife emailed a city attorney, asking for help in evicting Concepcion-Frearson, writing:
“I am again seeking your assistance in getting the tenants to vacate the premises. The police again kicked in the door on Tuesday and this time arrested the lease holder. So his 2 teenagers are there and other adults are trespassing They found 3 weapons and illegal drugs. The kids were bragging to me that no one could let them go, but the sheriff and his mom didn’t pick up any dumb kids.
“We have followed procedure and done whatever we were asked to do in terms of the eviction process. The sheriff hasn’t come yet.
“We can’t do repairs there with them. The Department of Buildings has deemed furnace violations to be hazardous and dangerous violations. , , The police told me that if you write down the order, they can release them.
“Also, I am concerned that the tenant has turned the apartment into a drug/gang spot. They bring drugs and guns in and out. I think the kids deliver the drugs. I have notified DCFS. This Really dangerous – someone could get hurt.
“The police want them gone! So do I!!!!”
It is unclear whether the city took any action in response to Burnett-Williams’ email.
On November 5, 2019, Cook County sheriff’s deputies evicted four adults and four children from the apartment leased by Burnett to Concepcion-Frearson. It was the third eviction case filed in Cook County against 42-year-old Concepcion-Frierson.
Court records show she was previously convicted of resisting arrest and attempted forgery, although Williams-Burnett said in her text message to the Sun-Times: “I hired a single parent woman. But Lia, who had a job, no evictions, and no arrest record, had been a long-term tenant for about six months, before the police showed up at her door.
“But please know, I did not knowingly hire someone who sells drugs. . . There are too many young women suffering who cannot fight back against evil men who come into their lives and drugs hidden in their homes. and capture weapons.
“I repeat, Alderman had nothing to do with the situation we found ourselves in. It’s just the reality of renting in the ‘hood.”
On December 5, 2019, a Cook County judge issued a permanent injunction prohibiting anyone from occupying Burnett’s building. Williams-Burnett agreed to pay a $440 fine and $60 court costs and to make all repairs by December 5, 2020.
The Burnetts sold the two flats in February 2021 for $225,000 – more than four times what they paid to buy it in 2015.
Contribution: Lauren Fitzpatrick
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