Last-minute pardon of Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher raises eyebrows
The last-minute pardon of Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher by outgoing President Donald Trump has brought raised eyebrows, but no explanations.
Urlacher, the 41-year-old younger brother of former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, was among 73 individuals pardoned by Trump during his final hours in office late Tuesday. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2020 on allegations he took part in an illegal sports gambling business.
Skeptics wonder if his famous brother's White House visit with Trump in March may have been a factor. Urlacher was the only one of 10 people charged in connection with the alleged gambling ring to receive a pardon.
Neither he nor his attorney could be reached for comment Wednesday. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago also could not be reached.
A statement from the White House late Tuesday said the pardon is supported by Urlacher's friends and family, and "countless members of his community."
"Throughout his life, Mr. Urlacher has been committed to public service and has consistently given back to his community," the White House statement continues. "Currently, Mr. Urlacher serves as the unpaid Mayor of Mettawa, Illinois. He is a devoted husband to his wife and a loving father to his 17-month old daughter."
Prosecutors alleged Casey Urlacher was recruited by ringleader Vincent DelGiudice of Orland Park to enlist new gamblers and collect or pay out cash. He faced one count of participating in the gambling conspiracy and one count of conducting an illegal gambling business. Each count would have been punishable by up to five years in a federal prison.
Urlacher, who has served two 4-year terms as Mettawa mayor, is not running for another term in the April 6 election.
During a special village board meeting a few weeks after the indictment was announced, Urlacher said he would continue to serve as mayor while he defended himself against the accusations.
"I fully believe I will be exonerated of all the charges," he said.
Brian Urlacher visited the White House in March 2020 and posted a photo of himself with Trump on social media. The NFL Hall of Famer's No. 54 jersey was spread atop the desk Trump was sitting behind.
"This was a once in a lifetime experience! Got to hang in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump and my family," Urlacher posted on Instagram. "He could not have been any nicer or accommodating to all of us."
Federal campaign records show Brian Urlacher contributed $6,125 to Trump-related election committees last year, as well as $875 to the Republican National Committee.
Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods questioned the pardon. He defeated Urlacher in the 2016 primary for the GOP nomination in the 26th Senate District.
"I frankly don't understand why President Donald Trump would pardon someone who has yet to be convicted of a crime, except when it's in the national interest," McConchie said in a statement.
"Pardons should be done on the merits of the case, not based on a relationship with the President. This sort of practice undermines the public's faith in our system. We're supposed to be a nation of laws, not one based on people getting benefits just because of who they know."
Former Mettawa Mayor Jess Ray, who is running unopposed for the office this year, declined to comment.
Village Trustee Tim Towne, whose seat is not up for election, said Urlacher's situation has "been a distraction in our village for sure."
"You should be held to a higher standard when you're a government official," he said.
Towne said he gets along with Urlacher.
"We had occasion to bump heads, but all in all he's a good guy," Towne said.
Among the gambling case's other defendants, DelGiudice's father, Eugene DelGiudice, has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to three months of home detention, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Vincent DelGiudice is set to plead guilty Monday.