CHICAGO – Federal prosecutors announced the indictment Friday of a low-level employee in the Cook County Circuit Clerk's office, acknowledging for the first time an investigation of the office that oversees the processing of legal papers of more than 2.4 million cases each year.
A statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago says the worker, Sivasubramani Rajaram, testified before a federal grand jury that was investigating "possible criminal violations in connection with the purchasing of jobs and promotions" inside one of the nation's busiest court clerks' offices.
According to the indictment announced by prosecutors, Rajaram was rehired last year by the office just weeks after loaning $15,000 to Goat Masters Corporation, whose president is the husband of the court's clerk, Dorothy Brown. Rajaram, 48, is charged with lying to a grand jury.
Neither Brown nor her husband, Benton Cook III, has been charged. But the once-staunch political backing for the 62-year-old Brown has begun to wane. At a meeting last month, the Cook County Democratic Party declined to endorse her for re-election to a fifth term amid media reports she was under investigation.
A message seeking comment from the clerk's office about the indictment wasn't returned. At October's party gathering, Brown said reports about an investigation were "unsubstantiated." She added: "In my heart of hearts, I have not done anything wrong."
Court documents offer no explanation of Goat Masters Corporation, including what line of business it might have been involved in. Online state records say only that it was incorporated in Chicago in June 2014, that Cook is its corporate agent, and that the company was "involuntarily" dissolved only days ago.
Rajaram, of Glenview, had worked earlier in the 2000s at the clerk's office and then spent several years in Indiana before returning to Chicago, the indictment says. It accuses him lying to the investigating grand jury twice, including once when asked if he spoke to Brown after being rehired last year.
"No. At the meeting, even at the picnic I don't have (a) chance to," Rajaram is said to have answered.
No defense attorney is listed for Rajaram in court filings. He's charged with one count of making false declarations before a grand jury. If convicted, he faces a maximum five-year prison term.
Rajaram, who is free on a recognizance bond, will appear for his arraignment later, though no date has been set, a U.S. attorney's office statement Friday said.
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