Feds nearly done laying out perjury case against ex-top aide to Michael Madigan

Jurors hear additional recordings that seemed to show the close relationship between Tim Mapes and Michael McClain.

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Tim Mapes, former chief of staff to Michael Madigan, exits the Dirksen Federal Building flanked by lawyers after the first day of trial for perjury and obstruction of justice charges, Monday, Aug. 7, 2023.

Tim Mapes, former chief of staff to Michael Madigan.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time file

Federal prosecutors are nearly done laying out their case to a jury that Michael Madigan’s longtime chief of staff lied to a grand jury in 2021 that had been investigating the once-powerful former House speaker and a close confidant.

The feds have called 14 witnesses over seven days as they try to prove Tim Mapes is guilty of perjury and attempted obstruction of justice. The perjury count alleges Mapes lied on seven occasions when asked about work Springfield insider Michael McClain did for Madigan.

McClain was convicted with three others earlier this year for conspiring to bribe Madigan. McClain also faces trial with Madigan in April in a separate case in which they are both charged with a racketeering conspiracy.

Prosecutors had been expected to wrap up their case against Mapes on Friday, but those plans were thwarted by technical issues in the courtroom and a promise by U.S. District Judge John Kness that jurors could expect to head home by lunch.

Before they left for the weekend, jurors did hear additional recordings that seemed to show the close relationship between Mapes and McClain — suggesting Mapes was more likely to be aware of McClain’s work for Madigan.

In one series of phone calls taped by the FBI, the two men discussed the nearing death of McClain’s mother.

The pair also discussed Mapes’ resignation, forced by Madigan, around that time in June 2018. In one call, McClain expressed rare frustration with Madigan, who pushed Mapes out over bullying and harassment claims.

McClain said he was “a little bit perturbed at him.” He also said he hadn’t spoken to Madigan recently, but if he had, “I think I would say I never thought you’d be the one to leave the foxhole.”

Mapes’ lawyers, who will begin presenting their case next week, told jurors in opening statements that Mapes either didn’t know the answers to specific questions posed to him in the grand jury, or he couldn’t remember them.

But prosecutors have spent more than a week laying out a case to the contrary. They called three current or former elected officials to the stand along the way: state Rep. Robert “Bob” Rita, former state Rep. Greg Harris and former state Rep. Lou Lang.

Rita told jurors he couldn’t think of anyone closer to Madigan than McClain or Mapes. And that supported testimony from retired FBI Special Agent Brendan O’Leary, who supervised much of the Madigan investigation.

O’Leary told jurors Madigan was “different from any other politician I’ve seen.”

“No cellphone, no emails, no texts,” O’Leary said of Madigan. “He relied on his tight inner circle.”

The feds also laid out evidence that Mapes kept track of the burgeoning investigation into Madigan, which went overt when law enforcement raided the homes of McClain and other Madigan allies in May 2019. The evidence seemed designed to undermine the notion that Mapes could have been caught off guard by questions in the grand jury.

Jurors also heard that, when sexual harassment complaints against a top Madigan political aide rocked his organization in 2018, McClain sent a fiery email laying out a plan to save the speaker. McClain wrote it was time to “play hardball and quit doing this nicey/nicey stuff,” and he suggested pitching scandalous stories to “over worked, underpayed” news reporters.

Mapes was among the recipients.

Finally, the feds turned to wiretapped calls of McClain’s that seemed to directly undermine Mapes’ testimony. For example, Mapes is accused in the attempted obstruction of justice count of testifying falsely about not knowing whether McClain communicated with Lang at Madigan’s direction.

Jurors on Thursday heard a recording of McClain telling Mapes in 2018 that he had an “assignment” from Madigan to tell Lang it was time to resign over a brewing allegation. McClain and Mapes discussed it multiple times, including once when Mapes asked McClain, “Will you be wearing your big boy pants that day?”

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