CHICAGO — The politically powerful president of a Teamsters union local pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he threatened a local business with a strike unless he was paid $100,000 a year.
John Coli Sr., 57, who was one of the first labor leaders to back Rahm Emanuel in 2010 when Emanuel announced he would run for mayor of Chicago, was charged July 12 with one count of attempted extortion and five counts of demanding and accepting prohibited payment as a union official, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois.
If convicted on all charges, Coli could face 45 years in prison.
Before leaving for Europe July 13, Emanuel declined to comment on the charges against Coli.
In June 2016, Coli was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner — an Emanuel foe — to the Illinois Labor Advisory Board, even though the labor leader endorsed former Gov. Pat Quinn.
The 11-page indictment alleges that the criminal acts occurred while Coli served as president of Teamsters Joint Council 25, which represents more than 100,000 workers in the Chicago area and northwest Indiana.
The indictment alleges that Coli accepted a $25,000 cash payment on July 7, 2016; two cash payments totaling $25,000 on Oct. 4, 2016, and Nov. 29, 2016; and $25,000 cash payments on Dec. 22, 2016, and April 4, 2017.
The company involved was not identified by federal officials, but the Sun-Times was the first to report that it was Cinespace Film Studios in North Lawndale, where the shows "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago P.D." are filmed.
Coli's retirement from the Teamsters after 46 years was announced the same day he was indicted.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer released Coli on a $20,000 recognizance bond. He and his attorney Joseph Duffy declined to speak to reporters.