Chicago Connections: Barack Obama, Dorothy Tillman and Tony Rezko

First, in December 2006, controversial Chicago alderwoman Dorothy Tillman was

exposed by a community newspaper

for using a taxpayer-funded development project to steer contracts to family and friends and possibly cheat the IRS. Then, in April 2007 – despite being

endorsed by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama

– Tillman was booted from office after representing the historic black ward for more than two decades. Now, the 60-year-old Tillman has landed herself in jail.

Early yesterday morning, Tillman was arrested in her native Montgomery, Alabama and charged with criminal trespassing for tussling with local hospital administrators. Tillman says she was the victim of excessive force. She smiles in the mug shot photo – a rare picture in which she is without one of her trademark, wide-brimmed hats. “They knocked my hat off,” Tillman, referring to police, told the Chicago Tribune. “One of them put his knees on my spine and threatened to Taser me.”

Tillman, whose ward included the largest concentration of vacant lots in Chicago, has long been known for shady dealings and bombastic behavior, including once pulling out a gun and waving it around at a city council meeting. Obama’s support of Tillman angered many in his hometown but did not receive national attention. Media stories of Tillman’s arrest do not even mention Obama. But the same cannot be said for Tony Rezko, the indicted real-estate magnate and political donor linked to Obama and many other Illinois politicians. Jury selection for Rezko’s trial begins today. –Todd Spivak

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