Madigan confidant, others want to know more about grand jury that indicted them
Their unusual request raises the question of whether the grand jurors who returned a Nov. 18 bribery indictment “were representative of the community,” noting that “the pandemic has had a disparate impact on different groups.”
Signaling the first of what is sure to be several legal challenges to the bribery charges leveled against a confidant of House Speaker Michael Madigan and three others, attorneys for the group say they want to know more about grand jury selection during the pandemic.
The unusual request raises the question of whether the grand jurors who returned the bombshell Nov. 18 indictment “were representative of the community,” noting that “the pandemic has had a disparate impact on different groups.”
Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, onetime ComEd vice president John Hooker and ex-City Club President Jay Doherty all pleaded not guilty earlier this month, two weeks after a 50-page indictment accused them of a long-term bribery scheme designed to curry favor with Madigan.
ComEd has also been charged with bribery and has entered into a so-called deferred-prosecution agreement with the feds. Another former ComEd executive, Fidel Marquez, has pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Madigan has not been criminally charged and denies wrongdoing.
The request filed Friday revolves around the Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968 and the defendants’ right to a “fair grand jury.”
“While defendants do not doubt that this district’s normal grand jury selection procedures are fair, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has necessarily affected court operations in a manner that may have implicated their constitutional rights,” the defense attorneys wrote.
The grand jury that produced the indictment was empaneled in January 2019, but the lawyers noted “individuals were likely added to the grand jury during the pandemic, and prospective grand jurors may have deferred or been excused from jury service for reasons related (and perhaps unrelated) to the pandemic.”
“For example, prospective grand jurors may have indicated that they had an underlying medical condition that put them at a higher risk of developing serious health complications from COVID-19,” they wrote.
The lawyers also made note of studies that suggest Black people were less likely to appear in a jury pool as a result of the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on their communities. They also noted the closure of schools and day care facilities, which has created a new child care burden “disproportionately borne by women.”
Among other information, the lawyers asked for details about the race, religion, sex, gender, ethnicity, year of birth, ZIP code, income and occupation of all grand jury members empaneled or excused during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago acknowledged a struggle early in the coronavirus outbreak to convene grand juries, though those troubles seemed to subside and indictments resumed later in the spring. However, prosecutors earlier this week said the recent rise in COVID-19 cases — along with the upcoming holidays —meant grand jury sessions “may be limited” in the next month or two.