Chicago corruption trials

A series of high-profile federal trials are set to challenge Chicago-style politics through mid-2024.

ComEd Bribery Trial

In the first trial, four power players are accused of trying to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to benefit ComEd. The four have pleaded not guilty, and their trial is likely to explore the line between legal lobbying and criminal activity.

The feds’ key witness, former ComEd Vice President Fidel Marquez, spent hours testifying Tuesday about how he and other ComEd executives fielded constant requests to find jobs for people he said were pushed for employment by Madigan, even when evaluations found their qualifications lacking.
Fidel Marquez took the stand at the ComEd bribery trial as prosecutors presented FBI recordings and internal ComEd documents showing hundreds of thousands of dollars went to alleged ghost payrollers of the utility.
Will Cousineau took the witness stand after securing letters from the feds granting him immunity and making clear he’s not a target of an investigation. Then he listened as prosecutors played a December 2018 call he’d participated in and which was secretly recorded by the FBI.
ComEd Landing Page backup image
A look at some of the key players involved in the case and the trial, and a timeline of key events leading up to it, as outlined in court records.
“I understand we have a lot of people walking around trying to find things to complain about,” Madigan is heard saying at the meeting. “Every once in a while, the speaker gets to do what he wants to do.”
Four former political power players are charged in a scheme to bribe Michael Madigan when he was Illinois’ powerful House speaker by arranging for jobs, contracts and money for Madigan’s allies.
ComEd’s former general counsel said he was told to sign the law firm of political operative Victor Reyes to an unusual three-year contract guaranteeing Reyes’ firm 850 hours of legal work a year.
When asked what Madigan valued most in other legislators, state Rep. Robert “Bob” Rita answered, “loyalty.”
For the first time Thursday, jurors in the bribery trial of Michael McClain and three other political power players heard Madigan’s voice on secret recordings.
The opening statements Wednesday kicked off the highly anticipated trial of Madigan confidant Michael McClain, ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty.
Public can hear recordings of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan after challenge by Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ.
Jurors at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse are expected to get a close-up look at how Springfield operated in the last decade when four political power players head to trial.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber said releasing the recordings to the public would “sensationalize the trial more than we want.”
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber noted that “emphasizing the history of corruption and election fraud that marked the early years of the machine could prejudice defendants.”
The wiretapped conversation was contained in a 126-page proffer filed late Tuesday by prosecutors in anticipation of the March 6 trial of Madigan confidant Michael McClain and three others, all accused of trying to bribe the former speaker of the Illinois House to benefit ComEd.
Two major utilities serving Illinois residents have now been charged as a result of the yearslong investigation centered on Madigan.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber presides over both cases, which had been scheduled for back-to-back trials this year. The ComEd case involves former House Speaker Michael Madigan’s co-defendant, Michael McClain.
Michael Madigan’s son Andrew has not been accused of wrongdoing. But his name was made public Thursday as allegedly taking part in a conversation tied to his father’s bribery charges.
Madigan’s comments may not exactly find a place in the Chicago corruption lexicon, but most of the words previously attributed by the feds to Madigan are far more flat.
Madigan is now one of the most significant politicians in Illinois history ever to face criminal charges, despite having left office more than a year ago.
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.
Lawyers for the four close to Michael Madigan say their indictment fails to allege a necessary “quid pro quo.” Instead, they argue it “loosely strings together an assortment of events over a ten-year period of time.”
Jay Doherty’s lawyer questioned Thursday if grand jurors considered whether the jobs at issue in ComEd scandal were “bona fide” or in the “usual course of business.”
As 13th Ward committeeperson in the Cook County Democratic Party, Madigan has 56% of the weighted vote that will decide who replaces him in the House.
House GOP leader Jim Durkin said he had 45 of the 60 votes required to become speaker, and he said he planned to appeal to 15 “reform-minded” Democrats in an unlikely bid to get them to support his ascension to speaker.
Named in the indictment are Madigan friend Michael McClain, ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore as well as former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and Jay Doherty, the ex-president of the City Club.