Judge allows secret ComEd recordings to be released, emergency COVID benefits end for SNAP recipients and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is about an eight-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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The “ComEd Four” — (clockwise from top left) Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times; Rich Hein/Sun-Times file; Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times; Colin Boyle/Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about an eight-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 37 degrees. Tonight will be clear with a low near 21. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with a high near 51.

Top story

Federal judge in ComEd bribery trial reverses course, will allow secret recordings to be released to the media

The federal judge presiding over the ComEd bribery trial reversed course today and ruled that secret recordings made of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and his allies may be released to the media after they are played for jurors.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber made his new ruling after an earlier decision regarding the recordings, made last week, was challenged by the Sun-Times and WBEZ. The Chicago Tribune later joined in the challenge.

The public release of evidence, once admitted and published at trial, is standard practice in Chicago’s federal court. The issue was sorted out ahead of jury selection in the case.

Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty are accused of trying to illegally sway Madigan by landing his associates jobs, contracts and money while legislation crucial to ComEd’s bottom line moved through Springfield.

The feds’ yearslong investigation of Madigan and his allies has had significant ramifications for Illinois government. Madigan was forced in 2021 to end his record-setting tenure as Illinois House speaker two months after the indictment triggering the trial starting Tuesday.

The trial is expected to last as long as two months.

Madigan also faces a separate indictment for racketeering handed up one year ago. His trial is not expected to begin until April 2024.

Jon Seidel and Tina Sfondeles have the latest developments in today’s trial.

More news you need

A bright one

Pilsen Food Pantry finds permanent space, plans to expand assistance

After years of operating in an unused, deteriorating church, the Pilsen Food Pantry has finally found a permanent home, with plans to offer more than just food.

The pantry has operated out of the former Holy Trinity Croatian church at 19th and Throop streets since 2020. It became the biggest pantry in the area, handling up to 20,000 pounds of food per day. But the organization doesn’t own that building, so it made little sense to spend money on major renovations. That made it difficult to expand programs, improve food storage or make the space more accessible to people with disabilities.

That’s all going to change.

Pilsen Food Pantry Director Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, at the future location of the pantry, 2124 S. Ashland Ave.

Pilsen Food Pantry Director Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, at the future location of the pantry, 2124 S. Ashland Ave.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The Figueroa Family Foundation, which runs the pantry, recently announced it has purchased a two-story, 56,000-square-foot building near 21st Place and Ashland Avenue for about $500,000. The building used to house a YMCA, said Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, pantry director.

Though the new space is smaller, owning it means being able to make whatever changes they want, Figueroa said. Now, the pantry is raising money to make improvements to the new space, and expects to be able to move into its new home by summer.

The group plans to build out the new space with a rooftop garden, a space to process Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program applications, stage home renovations and a kitchen for cooking classes similar to those offered before on Throop.

Michael Loria has more on the new location.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

Think back to the first wave of the pandemic — what’s one way you and your neighbors helped each other during that tough time?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: What is the best bookstore in Chicago?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Semicolon.” — Lauren Edwards

“Exile in Bookville. They have the best arts and music writing section around!” — Elizabeth Brandon

“Seminary Co-op Bookstore is the best bookstore in the city. They display a range of titles there unlike any other bookstore I have visited. If I ever hit the lottery this will likely be my first stop.” — Dave Coulter

“Women and Children First in Andersonville! Walking into that store feels like a warm, welcoming hug.” — Madison Heckel

“RoscoeBooks — kind and thoughtful staff, great selection with store recommendations and an excellent children’s section. It is Roscoe Village, after all!” — Lawrence Griffin

“Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park! It’s a hub of activity, and they can get just about any book I’m seeking — and I’ve sought some doozies!” — Jeff Dionesotes

“Unabridged Bookstore in Lake View is the best. The shelves are packed tight and always full—the place feels like it’s overflowing with books.” — Stephen Moyer

“Myopic Books in Wicker Park. Because it’s a little bit of everything.” — Jackie Waldhier

“City Lit [because of] all the small hand-written reviews by the employees.” — Sean Chambers

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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