Former state Sen. Terry Link asks judge for probation after wearing wire on fellow lawmaker

Former state Sen. Terry Link asked a judge Wednesday to give him probation for dodging $82,000 in taxes, arguing that he has done everything in his power to make amends — including wearing a wire.

“In word and in deed, Mr. Link has done everything in his power to right his wrong,” his defense attorney Catharine O’Daniel wrote in a 20-page memo to U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland.

The request comes more than three years after Link pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return. Lawyers only began to move forward with his sentencing after his testimony in last year’s trial of businessman James T. Weiss.

Weiss is now serving a 5 ½-year prison term in Minnesota for bribing Link and then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo, both Democrats. Arroyo is also serving a 57-month prison sentence in Florida for taking Weiss’ bribes.

But by the time Weiss and Arroyo approached Link in 2019, Link had become a secret FBI informant who would wear a wire, hoping to catch a break in his separate tax case.

Link’s sentencing hearing is now set for March 6. Prosecutors were expected to make their own sentencing recommendation for Link on Wednesday, but it had not appeared on the court docket as of Thursday morning.

Link’s case begs comparisons to Danny Solis, the longtime City Council member accused of arguably more serious crimes.

Solis will likely avoid a criminal conviction altogether through his cooperation with the feds. But prosecutors have also called Solis’ cooperation “extraordinary.” Indeed, he helped the feds indict two of Illinois’ most powerful politicians: former Ald. Edward M. Burke and former House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.

Link told jurors in Weiss’ trial that he’d withdrawn money from his campaign account and “used some for gambling.” He also told jurors that “I was helping a friend who was in dire need.” He said it was someone who “I knew most of my life and he was a businessman.”

In her memo Wednesday, O’Daniel explained that Link’s friend had a business that had gone insolvent, that his wife was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, and that his son struggled with drug addiction. She wrote that Link agreed to help “without hesitation” and tapped into his campaign fund.

“At all times, Mr. Link intended to repay the campaign funds once [the friend] reimbursed him,” O’Daniel wrote. But Link’s friend died in 2018, she said. The use of the campaign money rendered it taxable income, she acknowledged, and Link didn’t report it.

O’Daniel wrote that Link “looks forward to making full restitution for this offense and to finally putting this matter behind him.”

The Chicago Sun-Times and other media exposed Link’s cooperation with the feds the day criminal charges against Arroyo became public in October 2019. Though Link publicly denied it, he later explained during Weiss’ trial that “I’m cooperating with the FBI … not the Tribune or the Sun-Times or anybody else.”

He pleaded guilty in September 2020. In his plea deal, he agreed to “fully and truthfully cooperate” with federal prosecutors. He also admitted he dodged $82,000 in taxes between 2012 and 2016.

Still, Link helped the feds secure key convictions. Weiss is now among nine people found guilty amid five trials in 2023 as a result of public corruption investigations in Chicago. Arroyo pleaded guilty in 2021.

Weiss paid $32,500 in bribes to Arroyo to promote legislation that would explicitly legalize unregulated gambling devices known as sweepstakes machines.

When landmark gambling legislation passed without the sweepstakes language, Weiss and Arroyo turned to Link, meeting the key lawmaker at a Wendy’s restaurant in Highland Park on Aug. 2, 2019. Eventually, Link asked Arroyo to speak to him alone outside the restaurant.

There, wearing a recording device and following instructions from the FBI, Link asked, “What’s in it for me?” Arroyo explained that he was a “paid consultant” making $2,500 a month and that the same could be arranged for Link.

During another meeting three weeks later at Sander’s restaurant in Skokie, Link again recorded Arroyo as Arroyo handed Link a $2,500 check from Weiss’ business, Collage LLC.

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