CHICAGO — A federal jury now has the perjury case against Tim Mapes, who is accused of lying to a grand jury investigating Mapes’ longtime boss, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The jury of six men and six women was sent back at 4:35 p.m. Central time after hearing about five hours of closing arguments. The panel immediately sent U.S. District Judge John Kness a note saying it would leave for the day Wednesday and return at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Mapes, 68, of Springfield, is charged with perjury and attempted obstruction of justice and accused in an indictment of repeatedly lying during his appearance before the grand jury investigating Madigan and his vaunted political operation.
He faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction count, while the perjury charges carry up to five years behind bars.
In her closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Schwartz told the jury that Mapes, who had served as Madigan’s chief of staff for more than 25 years, was “a man on the inside, a man who was behind the curtain” of Madigan’s often-secretive political organization, and could have given the grand jury key insight when he testified on March 31, 2021.
“If the defendant had been honest, he would have been a star witness,” Schwartz said. “But he did everything he could to obstruct the process … to minimize his participation, to act as if he was clueless.”
Some of the questions posed by the prosecutor in the grand jury were “Springfield 101, Madigan 101,” Schwartz said.
But Mapes acted as if there was a “third rail” when it came to answering questions about Madigan and his longtime confidant, Michael McClain, who was at the center of the government’s ongoing probe.
“These three men were tight, extremely tight. Who better to give the grand jury insight into what was going on than this defendant?” Schwartz asked, pointing to Mapes at the defense table.
Mapes’ attorney, Andrew Porter, blasted those allegations in his closing argument, including the idea that Mapes somehow could have been a “star witness” against Madigan.
“It assumes, without evidence, assumes that Tim Mapes knew whether Madigan and McClain were discussing these topics,” Porter said. “And he didn’t … He couldn’t remember what he didn’t know.”
Porter also asked, where is Mapes’ motive to lie, particularly since Madigan had ousted him in June 2018 in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal.
“The government throws out (it was to) ‘protect the boss.’ … Why would he fall on his sword for a guy who kicked him to the curb three years before?” Porter asked the jury.
Porter said it was clear that the federal grand jury was looking specifically at an alleged bribery scheme by Madigan, McClain and others related to Commonwealth Edison — something he said Mapes had no knowledge of whatsoever.
“Mapes made that clear in the grand jury,” Porter said. “He did not know, and does not know, anything about any crimes that Michael Madigan and Michael McClain may have committed, and ladies and gentlemen, you have heard no evidence in this trial that he did.”
Porter said, “If Madigan was having criminal conversations about ComEd and hiring processes of ComEd, Tim Mapes wasn’t a part of it.”
Prosecutors, however, argued that Mapes was asked about much more than simply ComEd.
Schwartz said Mapes’ lies were intentional and repeated and on broad topics, and that he was evasive even when asked simple things like the extent of the relationship he had with McClain.
McClain, Schwartz said, was Madigan’s trusted right-hand man, who had unique access to the speaker and would camp out in his office suite at the Capitol. McClain and Mapes were also good friends, she says, and Mapes lied about it.
“Protecting those two men was a key motivation,” she said.
Schwartz played a snippet of the grand jury testimony when Mapes said McClain was “one of my fr- … sorry strike that,” then basically recited McClain’s work history that anyone could have looked up on Google. She said he caught himself before he touched the third rail.
She also played a portion of the grand jury testimony when Mapes was asked whether McClain was acting as an “agent” for Madigan.
“Do you know Mr. McClain to have acted as a messenger for Madigan in any capacity?” he was asked.
“I’m not aware of any,” Mapes answered.
During her argument, Schwartz displayed a diagram showing a power triangle, with Madigan’s photo at the top.
“Mike Madigan, the boss … He wielded immense power in the General Assembly and in the Democratic Party of Illinois.” And Tim Mapes? “Nobody got in to see the wizard without going through that man,” she said, referring to a sign that Mapes kept in his office.
Schwartz plowed even deeper into the mountain of evidence the prosecution piled up in trying to bring down Mapes as she went into a 14-point, step-by-step description of how the government proved that he attempted to obstruct justice.
She told jurors the government only needed to show one of those 14 points to show that he simply tried to impede the Madigan investigation, but she ticked off reasons to support each of example that pointed to Mapes’ guilt.
In driving home her arguments, Schwartz cited one grand jury question in which Mapes was asked if anyone had described to him any work or assignments McClain performed for Madigan during the 2017 through 2019 time frame, a period before and after Mapes was ousted from his job.
She contended Mapes’ “I don’t recall” answer was simply his attempt to fall back on an excuse that his memory was faulty, a move he preferred to telling the truth.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Mapes is no dummy,” Schwartz said. “He knew exactly what was being asked, and he tried to shut down any further questioning by pretending he didn’t remember. And that was a lie.”
She pointed out that Mapes himself passed along to McClain some of the political and government assignments that Madigan wanted McClain to perform.
Schwartz also explained Mapes did not face “trick questions” but rather would not explain even basics about the McClain-Madigan relationship.
“Nobody knew that relationship between Mike Madigan and Mike McClain better than this man,” Schwartz said, pointing out that McClain camped out by himself in a Capitol conference room in between the offices of Mapes and Madigan in the speaker’s suite.
She also noted how Mapes and McClain kept in touch closely as Madigan had McClain deliver to then-state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, that Madigan wanted him to leave the House after more than three decades — underscoring how Mapes jokingly asked McClain if he would wear his “big boy pants” the day he would lower the boom on Lang.
Lang was one of a series of Madigan allies, along with Mapes, accused of sexual harassment in 2018, a year the #MeToo movement rocked the speaker’s staff and one of the major moments in Madigan’s record reign that eventually led to him losing the speakership in 2021. Lang and Mapes both denied the allegations.
But Mapes, Schwartz said, also lied about knowing McClain worked with state Rep. Bob Rita, a Blue Island Democrat, on gambling legislation as well as on a Madigan-backed effort to transfer the state’s ownership of a Chinatown property to the city so that developers could eventually send Madigan’s law firm its tax business — a key part of Madigan’s racketeering case.
Further, Schwartz recapped the “ton of evidence” Mapes worked on with McClain even after Madigan ousted Mapes — including taking actions designed to show he would remain loyal, but she said Mapes told grand jurors a “blatant lie.”
“He did it to protect the boss — to protect the boss and stay in the foxhole,” Schwartz said.
In his argument, Porter also hit on a major theme of the defense: McClain is a storyteller and exaggerates and you have to take everything he says with a grain of salt. Even the FBI tended not to believe him when he made outlandish claims on the wiretaps, Porter said.
Porter said there is a “sinister sheen” when it comes to wiretaps, but the recordings in this case caught conversations between Mapes and McClain about noncriminal topics, like committee assignments, leadership posts, where they’re going to dinner and where Mapes might land a job.
“Again, so what?” Porter asked.
Mapes, who in addition to Madigan’s chief of staff also served stints as executive director of the state Democratic Party and the clerk of the House, has denied making any false statements.
His attorneys have argued that he did his “level best” to provide truthful answers. They also accused prosecutors of asking open-ended questions and failing to provide Mapes with any corroborating materials that might refresh his recollection of years-old conversations.
Shortly before the defense rested Tuesday, Mapes confirmed outside the presence of the jury that he wished to waive his right to testify in his own defense — a move that seemed all but certain given the inherent pitfalls of taking the witness stand.
The faults of human memory and Mapes’ state of mind after he was forced to resign in 2018 were the focus of Mapes’ defense, as his lawyers pushed the argument that he was truthful in the grand jury but just couldn’t remember answers to the questions he was asked due to the stress-filled, intimidating nature of the grand jury setting in March 2021.
Meanwhile, prosecutors over eight days of testimony presented more than a dozen witnesses and dozens of wiretapped phone conversations, emails and other documents in an effort to prove that Mapes was lying when he said he was unaware that McClain was doing sensitive “assignments” for the speaker even after McClain’s retirement from lobbying in 2016.
The prosecution’s case also included the audio of Mapes’ entire grand jury testimony, offering a rare glimpse into a secretive process and illuminating how big-time political corruption investigations play out behind the scenes.
Mapes’ trial is the latest among a series of blockbuster cases to arise out of the political corruption probe into Madigan.
Earlier this year, the “ComEd Four” trial ended with the convictions of McClain and three others on bribery conspiracy charges alleging they schemed to funnel payments from the utility to Madigan associates in exchange for the speaker’s assistance with legislation in Springfield.
Madigan and McClain are set to go on trial in April on separate racketeering charges alleging Madigan used official duties to maintain his power and enrich his cronies.
Both have denied the allegations.