Did McClain speak on behalf of House Speaker Michael Madigan? A legal battle to watch in the Madigan case
No one seemed too surprised when former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, famously reclusive, walked all the way to his federal racketeering arraignment on Wednesday without saying a single word.
His indictment is not much different. Madigan is certainly quoted deeply in the explosive 106-page document, but his comments won’t exactly go down in Chicago corruption history as Ald. Edward M. Burke: “Have we landed . . . the tuna ?
Madigan’s are more like, “OK. . . very well.”
This does not necessarily mean that the federal government has a problem. Michael McClain, a longtime Madigan ally, also allegedly once told ComEd officials in an email: ‘I know the drill and so do you’ and complained that he spent ‘precious minutes’ about something that might “provoke a reaction from our friend.” – meaning Madigan.
Because Madigan and McClain are charged as co-conspirators, legal experts predict prosecutors will use such words, along with recorded statements from McClain, against Madigan if the case goes to trial.
“And the defense is going to want to stop those tapes from coming in,” said Nancy DePodesta, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago who is now a partner and co-chair of the white-collar practice group at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.
That makes it a legal battle to watch as Madigan’s case heads to a jury – a process that will likely take years.
Lawyers for both men declined to comment. McClain’s attorney, Patrick Cotter, previously said prosecutors have tried to get McClain to cooperate “for years” but “he will never falsely testify about himself or anyone else.”
Madigan and McClain are charged with racketeering conspiracy in the highly anticipated March 2 indictment. They each pleaded not guilty through their attorneys in an arraignment held by telephone. True to form, Madigan did not speak. McClain, who was struggling to reach the line, apologized to the judge for being “challenged electronically.”
The indictment alleged that the two men – along with Madigan’s law firm, the president’s office, the 13th Ward Democratic Organization and others – formed the “Madigan Enterprise”, which aimed to enrich Madigan and his allies and expand Madigan’s political power.
The document alleges schemes involving ComEd and the former Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who he said worked undercover for the FBI, “a fact unknown to the defendants before or around January 2019”. That’s when the Sun-Times revealed Solis’ cooperation.
Madigan is sometimes quoted directly. For example, after Solis told Madigan on March 27, 2018 that a development group would “appreciate” him and give business to Madigan’s private law firm if Madigan could help facilitate the transfer of property from State-to-city Chinatown, Madigan reportedly said, “OK, okay, fine.”
And after Solis said on Aug. 2, 2018, that he wanted to be appointed to a state board that paid more than $100,000 a year, Madigan reportedly told Solis, “just leave it in my hands.” before asking Solis to help Madigan’s son.
But the indictment also states that “Madigan directed the activities of his close friend and associate, McClain, who carried on unlawful activities at Madigan’s direction.” And since the feds first accused ComEd of corruption in July 2020, they’ve painted McClain as a Madigan surrogate, pressuring ComEd officials to hand over jobs, contracts, and money. money to associates of the speaker at the time.
“I would tell you not to put anything in writing. . . all he can do is hurt you,” McClain allegedly told a ComEd executive in February 2019, according to ComEd case files.
Defense attorneys might argue that McClain, a ComEd lobbyist at the time, had his own separate agenda.
To use McClain’s statements against Madigan, DePodesta said prosecutors will first have to show that a conspiracy existed involving the two men, and then that the statements in question were made “during and in the aftermath” of that conspiracy.
She said they will have to show that their allegations are more likely true than not. And to help with their burden, they’ll have Solis and Fidel Marquez, a former ComEd executive who pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy in 2020, agreeing to cooperate with the federal government.
Prosecutors would present their case in what is called a Santiago Offer, usually a very detailed document filed closer to trial.
An example in the indictment of McClain allegedly speaking on Madigan’s behalf comes amid a scheme in which the feds allege Madigan agreed to use his position as Speaker of the House to assist in the transfer of ownership of Chinatown to pave the way for the development group’s proposal.
The indictment alleges that Madigan assigned McClain to work on the transfer. Then, around December 18, 2017, Solis is said to have told McClain that “in the past I was able to direct some work to Mike. [Madigan]and these guys will do the same.
After hearing this, the indictment alleges that McClain made a deal – that Madigan would help transfer ownership of Chinatown.