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Judge holds two witnesses in contempt of court in Gonzales vs. Madigan lawsuit

Jason Gonzales, left, speaks to reporters at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in 2016. File Photo,| Lou Foglia/Sun-Times; House Speaker Mike Madigan, right, at an Illinois House committee in Chicago in 2017. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

A federal judge on Monday ordered two political operatives held in contempt of court stemming from their failure to come forward and answer questions in a lawsuit that accuses state House Speaker Mike Madigan of putting up two “sham” candidates.

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly ordered Michael Kuba and Joseph Nasella held in contempt for not responding to subpoenas. Both were requested to appear for depositions by lawyers for plaintiff Jason Gonzales, who claims both men were campaign operatives for Madigan.

Gonzales’ attorneys have been trying to prove that Madigan put up two “sham” candidates with Latino names to try to split the Hispanic vote in the March 2016 primary. And with that, came a search for those who collected signatures for candidates in that race.

But Madigan’s personal attorney, Heather Wier Vaught, on Monday said Madigan’s political organization, Friends of Michael J. Madigan, did not employ Kuba. Wier Vaught said Nasella had been paid “small payments” for working for the campaigns of state Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, in 2018. She said he had been “dismissed,” but did not disclose why.

Gonzales, a 2016 Madigan primary challenger, argues in the suit that Madigan put up two candidates with Latino names to try to split the Hispanic vote. Madigan beat Gonzales 65.2 percent to 27.1 percent.

The suit has largely been an effort to disclose how the powerful speaker’s Democratic organization works. At one point, Gonzales’ attorney’s had sought to depose nearly a dozen defendants.

One of Madigan’s defense strategies is to try to prove that Gonzales was a “closet Republican” despite Gonzales’ denial of being a “plant of Gov. [Bruce] Rauner.”

At the height of the case, Gonzalez’s attorneys publicly released Madigan’s deposition the same week the Sun-Times disclosed the speaker had been recorded by the FBI trying to get business for his private law firm from a developer brought to him by Ald. Danny Solis, who was weighing the developer’s request to build a hotel in Chinatown. That was revealed in an affidavit obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Madigan isn’t facing any criminal charges. And in a statement through his attorney when he was named in the affidavit, Madigan denied any wrongdoing and “to our knowledge, neither the speaker nor his law firm is under investigation.”


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