By David Heinzmann
I forget which one of my fellow bloggers told me a while back that when you have a book coming out—as I do next month--it’s acceptable to shamelessly self-promote for at least a couple months worth of posts here on the Outfit. But interesting Chicago crime stuff keeps happening that I think people might want to read about. This week is no different.
Last Monday morning, a little after 6 a.m., I was rudely awakened by an email on my phone that said: Michael Scott is dead. His body found under a bridge in River North.
I jumped out of bed and made a call to a source, and learned something new and chilling. Scott had a bullet in his head.
The last time I had talked to Michael Scott, a longtime close ally of Mayor Daley, he accused me of being out to get him. It wasn’t the first time he’d said it.
Over the summer, my coworker Todd Lighty and I wrote several stories about Scott’s real estate dealings, and their troubling connections to his role as president of the Chicago school board, as well as his position on Daley’s Olympic committee. We had two significant stories, first that Scott was angling to take control of city-owned vacant lots next to the West Side park where the Olympic cycling tracks would be built. The land was currently almost worthless, but if the $30 million Olympic complex was built, the condos and stores he planned to build could have been worth a fortune. Read the whole thing here http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chicagoolympics/chi-090807scott-2016-4,0,2216786.story… And we followed it a few weeks later with this story about Scott’s ties to an even bigger development, herehttp://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-olympic-real-estate-25-sep25,0,2667598.story
After our first story, Daley backed Scott, and Olympic officials initially said it was OK. But when I pressed them with questions about their conflict-of-interest policy, they eventually said it wasn’t OK, and made Scott sever his ties to the development.
It was an embarrassing summer for Scott, and it wasn’t getting any easier. Over the last couple of weeks, Lighty and I were planning to report another story—that Scott had billed the public schools for his $3,000 trip to Copenhagen to be with the Olympic team when the 2016 host city was chosen last month. An internal investigation over Scott’s use of his expense account had been percolating at the schools headquarters since Lighty filed a demand for documents eary this month.
But none of these problems seemed like something an experienced politico would kill himself over. While we dug for reasons last week, the murmurs from Scott’s friends grew louder that it couldn’t have been suicide. Somebody must have killed Scott.
The questions bubbled over toward the end of the week, after the Cook County Medical Examiner ruled the case was a suicide, and Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis balked, saying the police investigation wasn’t ready to rule either way. Then some raving woman ran up to the Tribune Tower and heaved a brick through the plate glass of WGN's streetside studio. She was ranting that we were covering up Scott's murder.
Every cop I’ve talked to about the case, including some who were at the scene, has said this was definitely a suicide. Scott’s own gun. Gunshot residue on his hand. Little details, like the fact that he was left-handed and was shot in the left side of his head.
So why did he do it? I think we’ll be digging on that question for a while. It’s one Chicago’s more compelling mysteries at the moment. And that’s saying something.
I think all of the novelists on this blog would agree, sometimes it’s difficult to come up with plot lines that are stranger than the truth of what goes on in this town. I mean, Patti Blagojevich on reality TV in the jungle would have seemed like it was stretching things a bit if Christopher Buckley had made it up.
But then again, this can give us all a liberating measure of license. Who says it couldn’t happen? This is Chicago.
Oh, and by the way, the next time I blog will be three days shy of my Dec. 9 publication date. I promise (to myself) to shamelessly self-promote A Word to the Wise (AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW!!!) then.