Michael Madigan

Jury Deliberations Begin in ‘ComEd 4' Trial

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Jury deliberations began Tuesday in the high-profile trial for the so-called "ComEd 4."

Closing arguments wrapped up weeks of testimony in the highly publicized trial, which involves former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty.

The four are accused of arranging for jobs, contracts and money for Madigan allies in an illegal bid to sway Madigan as legislation crucial to ComEd moved through Springfield.

Hooker’s attorney was the first to address the jury Tuesday, saying her client is a man of the highest integrity. She said he had been copied on emails from the other defendants, but “being copied on an email should not make you a criminal."

The final defendant to make his case in the trial was Doherty, whose attorney described him as a “Chicago guy, who has nothing to do with Springfield.”

"Zero. Not a thing," Mike Gillespie said. “He's also not a Madigan guy, pure and simple."

Because the government has the burden of proof in the case, it got the last word.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Amar Bhacu told jurors the defendants were careful not to disclose their alleged scheme: to bribe then-powerful house speaker Madigan in return for favorable treatment in Springfield.

“We are not talking about amateurs here. We are not talking checkers; we are talking chess. When it came to chess, Mr. McClain and the others were grand masters at corruption,” he said.

The government said legislation pulled ComEd back from the brink of bankruptcy and earned it more than $400 million. The cost to ComEd, prosecutors say, was $1.3 million dollars over the course of eight years, in the form of ghost payrolling jobs, fixed internships and directed legal work.

The defendants say there was no criminal conspiracy, but they were building good will, just as any good lobbyist would have done.

Madigan is charged with racketeering in a separate indictment and faces trial in April 2024.

Central to the current trial is an allegation that ComEd paid $1.3 million to five Madigan allies through various intermediaries, including a consulting firm owned by Doherty. The recipients of that money allegedly did little or no work for it, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane MacArthur said the defendants knew it.

She said the arrangement was conceived by McClain and Hooker, implemented by Doherty and adopted by Pramaggiore.

The prosecutor showed jurors a pair of timelines. One reflected the passage of key bills that took ComEd from a “dire” financial position in the 2000s to record earnings in 2022. The other showed various benefits given to Madigan associates as part of the alleged scheme.

The timelines showed that the alleged benefits tended to be delivered around the time legislation was passed.

MacArthur also alleged that an effort to appoint former McPier boss Juan Ochoa to ComEd’s board, begun in 2017, was a “reward given by Anne Pramaggiore to Madigan” for his help passing the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016.

The prosecutor accused Pramaggiore and Hooker of lying on the stand last week, including when Pramaggiore said she didn’t grasp Madigan’s connection to the subcontractors until after she learned of the feds’ investigation.

Though FBI cooperator Fidel Marquez told her in a recorded Feb. 18, 2019, phone call that the subcontractors “pretty much collect a check,” Pramaggiore testified that she didn’t realize he was talking about people tied to Madigan.

MacArthur told the jury on Monday that Pramaggiore told them a “flat-out lie.” The prosecutor pointed to another recorded call between Pramaggiore and McClain from May 2018 in which the pair discussed one of the subcontractors at issue, former Ald. Michael R. Zalewski. In that call, Pramaggiore said she’d told Marquez, then a ComEd executive, to hire Zalewski.

Marquez had not begun to cooperate with the FBI at that point.

Pramaggiore and McClain then discussed whether Madigan should call Zalewski to tell him about the subcontracting job.

“She said to you that the Feb. 18, 2019, conversation proves her innocence,” MacArthur told jurors. “Members of the jury, that’s flat-out wrong. That proves her guilt.”

Still, Pramaggiore defense attorney Scott Lassar later insisted to jurors that Pramaggiore’s innocence is “conclusively proven” by the call. Pramaggiore testified that she’d forgotten about it, and Lassar said it would have been “suspicious if she did remember” it. Lassar also argued that Zalewski’s hiring was legitimate because he was expected to help negotiate a new franchise agreement between ComEd and City Hall.

That negotiation was short-circuited when then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in 2018 that he would not be running for re-election, creating uncertainty over who would be Chicago’s next mayor.

Patrick Cotter, McClain’s attorney, tried to downplay the government’s narrative on everything from Madigan’s power to McClain’s pushiness on government tapes. Of the allegation that ComEd saved spots for Madigan’s 13th Ward applicants for its internship program, Cotter said, “in life, people sometimes play favorites. It doesn’t violate the bribery law.”

Of the power held by the longest-serving statehouse speaker in the nation who was widely known as the “Velvet Hammer,” Cotter agreed Madigan was “powerful” but “Michael J. Madigan does not have quite the power the government says he does.”

He told jurors the government tried to show that Madigan had the power to kill ComEd’s bills — but because he didn’t, he must have been bribed.

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Cotter exclaimed.

While once again pointing out that “lobbying is just lobbying, and politics is just politics,” Cotter thanked jurors for their service and made one final request.

“Be the shield that you were meant to be. The shield between an individual citizen and a very powerful government, in this case a very powerful government committed and dedicated to getting Mike Madigan,” Cotter said. “Don’t let Mike McClain be collateral damage in that war.”

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