Feds say members of Madigan’s inner circle weren’t ‘merely’ lobbying, urge judge not to toss charges
It amounted to the latest volley in the high-stakes public corruption case swirling around ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has not been criminally charged and denies wrongdoing.
Federal prosecutors argued Monday that a bid from four members of ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle to convince a judge to toss part of the indictment filed against them ignores the alleged corruption at the heart of the case.
“The illegal conduct alleged in the indictment did not consist merely of lobbying, and it did not include campaign contributions made by ComEd,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu wrote in a new 74-page court filing.
Instead, Bhachu wrote, the four allegedly delivered benefits to Madigan’s associates with the hope Madigan “would give favorable treatment to ComEd legislation” — an arrangement that could be understood as a quid pro quo.
It amounted to the latest volley in the high-stakes public corruption case swirling around Madigan, who has not been criminally charged and denies wrongdoing. A grand jury leveled charges in November against Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, onetime ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and ex-City Club President Jay Doherty.
Meanwhile, court filings have identified Madigan only as “Public Official A.”
The 50-page indictment accused the four members of Madigan’s inner-circle of a long-term bribery scheme designed to curry favor with Madigan. All four have pleaded not guilty. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber last week scheduled their trial for Sept. 12, 2022.
The judge also pressed a prosecutor last week about whether the feds plan to file a new indictment that could add additional charges, allegations or defendants to the case. The prosecutor simply told him, “The investigation is ongoing.”
Lawyers for the four defendants sought in June to convince the judge to toss certain charges in the indictment, arguing it suffered from a series of “fatal” gaps — including the lack of a clear quid pro quo.
The attorneys argued it “loosely strings together an assortment of events over a ten-year period of time — largely hiring decisions made by ComEd … at the recommendation of Public Official A — and alleges that, because such recommendations were made in the same decade that legislation affecting ComEd was passed, a crime must have been committed.”
They added that, if the prosecution were to move forward as it stands, it would give prosecutors “essentially unlimited discretion to prosecute anyone who has provided a benefit to a public official, and convict them on evidence that the public official took some official act that the defendant favored.”
But Bhachu countered Monday that the four sought “to influence and reward Public Official A in his capacity as Speaker of the House of Representatives with significant power over legislation affecting ComEd’s interests.
“These were not bona fide arrangements made in the usual course of business,” Bhachu wrote, “and there is no legal basis to dismiss these charges from the indictment.”
Federal prosecutors first implicated Madigan when they separately charged ComEd with bribery in July 2020. ComEd struck a deal with the feds in which it agreed to pay a $200 million fine — believed to be the largest criminal fine ever in Chicago’s federal court. If it abides with that and other terms of the deal, the bribery charge filed against it could ultimately be dropped.
Another former ComEd executive, Fidel Marquez, pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy in September 2020 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Then, last May, a federal grand jury charged former Madigan chief of staff Timothy Mapes with perjury and attempted obstruction of justice as part of the same investigation.