A federal jury today found a former Chicago official guilty of taking bribes in return for steering the contract for the installation of Chicago’s red-light cameras to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc.
John Bills was convicted of 20 counts that together carry a total maximum statutory penalty of 340 years in prison.
The counts include extortion, bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, submitting fraudulent income tax returns and conspiring to defraud the federal government.
U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall set sentencing for May 5.
The lead attorney for Bills is Nishay K. Sanan.
“We’re obviously disappointed, and John’s going to continue to fight,” Sanan said after the verdict was returned.
Prosecuting the case were U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laurie J. Barsella and Timothy J. Storino.
Fardon said the jury’s verdict did not mark a happy occasion because “public corruption is a disease, it is a cancer, it is insidious.”
“When public officials violate the public trust to line their pockets, we’re going to be there,” he said.
Bills, the city’s former managing deputy commissioner of transportation, is not the first person convicted of wrongdoing in the red-light camera program.
Karen Finley, the former chief executive officer of the Phoenix-based Redflex, and Martin O’Malley, the company’s former Chicago-based consultant, have pleaded guilty in the case.
Finley also pleaded guilty in federal court in the Southern District of Ohio in a scheme that helped Redflex retain contracts with two cities in that state.
Under the red-light camera program, electronic monitoring devices are installed on certain intersections to detect and record drivers who run red lights.
Redflex installed red-light cameras in Chicago in 2003 under a provision of the city’s Municipal Code.
The red-light camera program has generated more than $500 million in revenue since 2003.
It also has generated controversy.
Some critics in Chicago — and in other municipalities that have red-light programs — allege the cameras are inaccurate and that their automated nature makes it difficult for drivers to challenge tickets.
Others complain that shortened times for yellow lights combined with the red-light cameras lead to more accidents from quick stops followed by rear-end collisions from following drivers.
And others say red-light cameras are merely a way for communities to make money.
Citing the controversy over the red-light camera program, Bills last year asked Kendall to move his trial to federal court in Nevada.
But Kendall rejected the notion that an impartial jury couldn’t be found to serve in Bills’ case.
In a June 12 opinion, she wrote that political corruption cases have been successfully tried in Chicago’s federal court for years.
She also noted that more than 8 million people live in the eight counties that make up the Northern District of Illinois.
The case is United States v. John Bills, No. 14 CR 135.