Federal judge declines to toss charges against Michael Madigan’s inner circle
The four were accused of arranging for the ex-House speaker’s associates and allies to get jobs, contracts and money in order to influence Madigan as key legislation worked its way through Springfield.
A federal judge on Thursday declined to toss charges against four members of ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle, rejecting arguments in a key ruling seven months ahead of a scheduled trial.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber announced his decision in a 25-page opinion that nevertheless required the feds to identify false statements made amid an alleged eight-year scheme prosecutors say was designed to curry favor with Madigan.
Charged in the 50-page November 2020 indictment were Madigan confidant Michael McClain, ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-top ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and Jay Doherty, the former president of the City Club. The four were accused of arranging for Madigan’s associates and allies to get jobs, contracts and money in order to influence Madigan as key legislation worked its way through Springfield.
Madigan has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing. The scandal ended his record-setting tenure as Illinois House speaker, though, and he has repeatedly been referred to in charging documents as “Public Official A.”
Doherty asked Leinenweber in May 2021 to toss part of the indictment, calling the prosecution “shaky at best.” His lawyer questioned if the grand jury that handed it up considered whether the jobs at issue were “bona fide” or in the “usual course of business.”
Attorney Gabrielle Sansonetti wrote that one of the federal laws Doherty was accused of violating “prohibits any prosecution where the object of the bribe is a bona fide job in the usual course of business.”
But Leinenweber wrote Thursday that the group allegedly “offered, or intended to offer, financial incentives as a bribe to a public official to influence state laws governing the public corporation that employed them.”
“The fact that these incentives were laundered partially through jobs does not invalidate the indictment,” Leinenweber wrote. “A company cannot use its payroll line on its accounting ledger to circumvent all Government oversight of public corruption.”
The four also argued last year that the indictment failed to allege a necessary “quid pro quo.” Instead, they said, 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.”
In his ruling Thursday, Leinenweber found that a “quid pro quo” is not an essential element of the crime at issue.
Federal prosecutors also charged ComEd with bribery in July 2020. The utility entered into a three-year deal with prosecutors and agreed to pay a $200 million fine. Another former ComEd executive, Fidel Marquez, pleaded guilty in September 2020 to a bribery conspiracy.
A hearing in the case against McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker and Doherty is set for March 23. A trial in the case is set for Sept. 12.