The speaker spoke for nearly five hours on Thursday, but didn’t provide any “smoking gun.”

That’s the way the plaintiff suing state House Speaker Mike Madigan described the deposition Madigan gave, saying the powerful Southwest Side Democrat denied putting up two sham candidates in his own legislative race and accused Gov. Bruce Rauner of putting his own plant in the race.

The deposition began at 11 a.m. and ended around 4:30 p.m., according to Jason Gonzales, who filed the federal lawsuit against Madigan.

Gonzales argues in the suit that Madigan put up two “sham” candidates with Latino names to try to split the Hispanic vote in the March 2016 primary. Madigan beat Gonzales 65.2 percent to 27.1 percent.

Gonzales’ attorney, former Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, asked Madigan the questions. Madigan’s attorneys were granted a protective order in the case to ensure video and audio of the deposition would not be made public, among other provisions. The order also limited the types of questions Peraica could ask Madigan.

Attorney Tony Peraica, left, counsel for Jason Gonzales, who ran against Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in the 2016 primary, speaks to reporters inside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in 2016. File Photo. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

Attorney Tony Peraica, left, counsel for Jason Gonzales, who ran against House Speaker Michael Madigan in the 2016 primary, speaks to reporters in 2016. File Photo. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

According to the agreed order filed in U.S. District Court, attorneys were not allowed to ask Madigan anything “regarding any present or past legislative work or electoral strategies,” other than matters about the support of any candidate in the 2016 Democratic primary election in the 22nd District.

Also fair game for questioning was Madigan’s direct or indirect support of Cicero Town President Larry Dominick, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski and former state Rep. Silvana Tabares, who is now a Chicago alderman, prior to or during the 2016 primary election.

“He pretty much played the denial game. He basically said he didn’t know anything or that he doesn’t remember. He said he had no involvement with the two sham candidates,” Gonzales said. “It’s to be expected. We didn’t expect that he would hand us his own smoking gun.”

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s name was brought up in the deposition by Madigan, Gonzales said, adding the speaker told attorneys that he saw Gonzales as an “incursion from Bruce Rauner.” Part of Madigan’s attorneys’ defense strategy is to try to prove that Gonzales was put up by Rauner and Republicans to run against Madigan. Gonzales has denied that claim and insists he’s an independent Democrat.

Madigan also denied any knowledge of negative mailers about Gonzales sent to homes in the legislative district.

When Dominick was brought up, Madigan “denied colluding with him or any of his operation in placing false candidates on the ballot.”

Cicero Town President Larry Dominick talks to the media on election night in 2013. File Photo. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Cicero Town President Larry Dominick talks to the media on election night in 2013. File Photo. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Gonzales, through Peraica, asked Madigan why he didn’t run negative mailers against the other two candidates if they were, indeed, “real.”

“He said that he doesn’t recall the reason why he didn’t engage against them,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said Madigan “said he didn’t know anything about mostly everything.”

Still, Gonzales claimed he believed his attorneys have “gotten enough evidence to show that Madigan is a state actor in this.”

“We have enough evidence to prove that he was involved in a conspiracy and also we have enough evidence to show that this was fraud,” Gonzales claimed. “That he tried to hoodwink voters.”

Jason Gonzales, then a candidate in the 2016 Democratic primary, meets with potential voters in February of 2016. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Jason Gonzales, then a candidate in the Democratic primary, meets with potential voters in February of 2016. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Asked to comment on the deposition, Michael Kasper, one of Madigan’s attorneys, said he would not comment on pending litigation.

Rauner was initially included in a lengthy list of people Madigan’s lawyers had hoped to sit for depositions. But last month, the deposition list was winnowed down to just one person. Millionaire investor Blair Hull. Hull is being deposed because lawyers are trying to show that he had the most participation in funding the Gonzales campaign.

Madigan’s lawyers revealed in exhibits that Hull had communicated with Rauner’s executive assistant via email regarding Gonzales’ race against Madigan.

Lawyers could also not ask Madigan about his law practice, his family members “with the exception of questions regarding any actions by Attorney General Lisa Madigan or her office directly related to the 2016 primary in the 22nd District.”

Additionally, the order specified lawyers couldn’t ask him about “the current structure, actions and/or operations of any political organizations,” or conversations between any members of his organizations, except about actions that happened between March 1, 2015 through April 30, 2016, directly related to the primary.

A recording of the deposition can only be viewed by the attorneys and can’t be shared “from the time it is made until after the date of the 2018 general election in the 22nd district,” the order said.

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