Defense in perjury trial of ex-Madigan top aide begins with talk of high school reunions, old crushes and a faulty memory

Defense attorneys argued that Tim Mapes did not lie to a grand jury in 2021 but didn’t know or couldn’t remember the answers to certain questions he was asked under oath.

SHARE Defense in perjury trial of ex-Madigan top aide begins with talk of high school reunions, old crushes and a faulty memory
Tim Mapes Dirksen Federal Court Building Chicago

Tim Mapes, former chief of staff for Michael Madigan, leaves the courthouse after a hearing at the Dirksen Federal Court Building last month.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

An attorney for Michael Madigan’s longtime chief of staff on Wednesday likened the top aide’s 2021 appearance before a federal grand jury to a high school reunion featuring a pop quiz about the prom and old crushes — where a wrong answer could result in a felony.

That, she argued, is what happened to Tim Mapes when he testified before a grand jury investigating criminal wrongdoing by Madigan, Illinois’ once-powerful former House Speaker.

“Tim Mapes did not lie in the grand jury,” defense attorney Katie Hill argued as Mapes’ perjury trial began in earnest. “He did not attempt to obstruct justice.”

Rather, she said, Mapes either didn’t know or couldn’t remember the answers to certain questions he was asked under oath March 31, 2021. She insisted the trial jury he now faces will hear no direct evidence to the contrary.

It amounted to the fullest public defense yet of Mapes, who testified for hours in 2021 and was asked more than 650 questions by prosecutors, records show.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane MacArthur argued that Mapes was once part of a tight inner circle involving Madigan and fellow Springfield insider Michael McClain. She stressed that Mapes claimed in 2021 not to know anything — “anything” — about work that had been done by McClain for Madigan.

MacArthur also said Mapes once said of Madigan, “I always try to protect him. I mean, that’s my goal. … We’ll protect the boss and so will you. That’s what you gotta remember.”

Federal prosecutors charged Mapes in May 2021 with perjury for allegedly lying on seven occasions before the grand jury about McClain’s work for Madigan. Mapes is also charged with attempted obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to block the feds’ aggressive investigation of Madigan and McClain, who both now face criminal charges.

Madigan forced Mapes to resign from his post in June 2018 amid bullying and harassment allegations.

Now he faces a trial before U.S. District Judge John Kness, which is expected to last no more than three weeks. It could also draw several key players from Springfield to the witness stand.

The proceedings kicked off Wednesday with opening statements from Hill and MacArthur. In addition to comparing Mapes’ grand jury appearance to a pop quiz about high school, Hill discussed the reputations of Madigan and McClain around the Capitol.

While people there believed McClain spoke for Madigan, Hill argued that Madigan was not “free-flowing” with information. In that environment, she said, “folklore takes its place.”

McClain, she said, “leaned into this folklore.”

But for Mapes, she said, “there was no need to rely on folklore or common knowledge.” Hill said Mapes had direct access to Madigan, and “would not have considered what McClain said to be the gospel truth about what Madigan actually said or wanted.”

Meanwhile, she argued that a grand jury room is not a place “to start making assumptions” or “to start guessing.”

Following opening statements, jurors heard from former state Rep. Greg Harris, a Democrat who served two terms as House majority leader. They also heard from Tom Cullen, a lobbyist who once worked for Madigan.

Before Harris took the stand, Kness ruled that prosecutors could not play for jurors a secretly recorded November 2018 call between Harris and McClain. In it, McClain allegedly encouraged Harris to speak to Madigan about Harris’ interest in becoming majority leader. Kness found it irrelevant.

However, the judge didn’t stop Harris from testifying about that conversation. Harris also described McClain as a “good friend and confidant of the speaker” and said people in Springfield assumed McClain “had the speaker’s ear.”

During cross-examination, Harris also acknowledged he hadn’t remembered his November 2018 conversation with McClain until the feds showed him a transcript in an interview.

Hill had noted in her opening statement that Mapes was rarely afforded that courtesy before the grand jury.

Cullen has previously been drawn into the Madigan investigation. AT&T Illinois allegedly funneled payments to former state Rep. Edward Acevedo through a firm that belonged to Cullen. Cullen told jurors Wednesday he had received a “non-target letter,” which means he doesn’t expect to be criminally charged in the investigation.

Cullen testified that he reported to Mapes when he worked in Madigan’s office. And he told the jury that Mapes “ran the entire operation … he was in charge of everybody and everything.”

And when he heard the news that Mapes had been forced by Madigan to resign, Cullen said he was “devastated.”

“[Mapes] was a loyal, hardworking individual for the speaker,” Cullen said.

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