Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Milwaukee Ald. McGee charged with extortion, bribery

Prosecutors today charged that a controversial African-American city councilman solicited a series of bribes from businesses in his Milwaukee district in exchange for promises of favorable treatment.

Among the evidence cited against Michael McGee: a man who paid $1,250 because he feared losing his liquor license and then helped the alderman shake down other businesses, according to a criminal complaint released today.

Authorities recorded "dozens" of incidents in which McGee allegedly sought bribes, according to the complaint detailing federal extortion and bribery charges against him.

McGee appeared in Milwaukee Court this afternoon wearing an orange jumpsuit on state charges accusing the alderman of solicitation to commit substantial battery and conspiracy to commit substantial battery. Several supporters stood outside the courtroom, one carrying a sign that read "free McGee."

McGee was arrested yesterday "based on what we determined to be public safety concerns," Milwaukee Co. DA John Chisholm said without elaborating.

The federal criminal complaint included details of several alleged bribes, including a March 8 incident in which an undercover officer, who had prior conversations with McGee about buying a business requiring a liquor license, gave the alderman $1,000 at a fundraiser. The officer handed McGee $900 of that in cash. McGee is reported to have said. "I got you," in response.

On March 26 and 27, 2007 McGee is said to have accepted a total of $2,000 he solicited from a gas station owner who wanted to operate 24 hours. In a recorded conversation, McGee allegedly balked when the gas station owner first offered him $500. "You have got to be kidding me," McGee is reported to have said.

McGee allegedly told him it would cost a "pretty penny" to win approval.

Read the complaint:

McGee attorney Glen Givens declined to comment, saying he wanted to wait until after a hearing scheduled for tomorrow to determine whether to release details of state charges.

Also facing state charges in connection with the case are Little Stewart and Dimitrius Jackson. Neither Chisholm nor U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic would reveal if any others are under investigation in the matter.

Chisholm said he was not opposed to releasing details of the state charges, which remained under seal this afternoon, but had to wait for a judge to give him clearance.

McGee faces up to 30 years and prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted of the federal charges.

Biskupic said no federal court date has been set for McGee and said that wouldn’t likely happe n while McGee remains in state custody.

According to Biskupic, the investigation began in May 2006 following complaints by business owners in the district about McGee's actions. Biskupic urged others to come forward if they felt they have been extorted by city officials.

"If business owners in this city believe they are having to pay money for their government services in violation of the law, by all means contact the FBI, the Milwaukee police or the District Attorney's office," Biskupic said.

In response to the charges, Common Council President Willie Hines announced that he's removing McGee from his committee assignments with the council. Hines said in a statement "until this matter is resolved, I will act decisively to protect the institution of the Common Council."

See the Hines press release:


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