A former Milwaukee alderman has been found guilty of shaking down business owners in his aldermanic district for thousands of dollars. The jury deliberated six hours, and the 38 year old Michael McGee, Jr. showed no emotion when the verdicts were read. The conviction follows a seven day trial – which spelled out a scenario in which McGee used his aldermanic privilege to make businesses pay him, in order to retain their liquor licenses. McGee claimed he needed the money for neighborhood initiatives, but prosecutors said it all ended up in his pocket. U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic said the Common Council should consider ending the concept of aldermanic privilege, which basically gives members veto powers over proposed liquor licenses and renewals in their districts. Biskupic praised the business owners who testified, calling them courageous.
Prosecutors used McGee's own words against him, in a series of wire-tapped conversations played to the jury. At one point, McGee was heard referring to himself as "thug Mike." Still, he had his supporters in the gallery. One called the verdict a "legal lynching." McGee still faces state charges of buying votes and threatening a young burglar. He's been in jail for almost 13 months. He lost a reelection bid in April. McGee could get up to 30 years in prison when he's sentenced October 24th, although federal guidelines call for a much shorter term.