CHICAGO — Former Illinois President Michael Madigan’s attempt to suppress the dozens of wiretap calls and secret recordings that form the backbone of the government’s bomb racket case is a “a flimsy effort to create an air of impropriety where none exists,” federal prosecutors said in a motion Tuesday.
The 152-page filing also tore up defense claims that the indictment does not connect any benefits Madigan received from utility giants Commonwealth Edison and AT&T Illinois to any action the powerful speaker took — or has no influence – on a particular legislation.
“Without batting an eyelid, Madigan has time and again prepared to take official action in his capacity as Representative from Illinois and as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, sometimes with the connivance and assistance of his Confederate (Michael) McClain, in exchange for the legal work being directed to his private law firm,” the filing states.
The government’s response to defense pretrial motions is part of a protracted legal battle in a case that rocked Illinois politics and ultimately ended Madigan’s record as the most powerful politician in the country. ‘State.
Defense attorneys have four weeks to file a response, and U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey has scheduled a motion hearing for August 29.
Tuesday’s filing delves into legal weeds at times, but also lays out in the starkest language what prosecutors intend to prove at trial: that Madigan, the nation’s longest-serving legislative leader, “exploited his position high-ranking public official to manipulate the levers of state and local government for the purpose of illegally enriching himself and his associates”.
“Madigan, along with his loyal lieutenant Michael McClain – a self-proclaimed soldier and loyal agent of Madigan – arranged a flood of corrupt payments and benefits to be distributed to Madigan and his associates in return and reward for Madigan’s abuse .his formal credentials,” the prosecution team, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu, wrote in its filing.
Madigan, 81, and McClain, 75, are charged in an indictment with 23 counts of racketeering conspiracy and individual charges of using interstate facilities for bribery, wire fraud and attempted extortion. They have pleaded not guilty and a jury trial is scheduled for April 2024.
Among the allegations in the indictment was a ComEd scheme to secretly funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments and other benefits to Madigan loyalists in exchange for the speaker’s influence on legislation in Springfield. .
Four other people separately charged in the scheme, including McClain, were convicted by a jury of bribery conspiracy in May. McClain is expected to be sentenced for the offense in January.
In November, prosecutors unveiled a superseding indictment adding allegations that Madigan and McClain participated in another scheme to funnel AT&T payments to a Madigan associate in exchange for the speaker’s influence. about the legislation that the telephone company wanted to pass.
Madigan’s indictment also accused the former speaker – with help from McClain – of illegally soliciting business for his private property tax law firm during discussions of a potential business development on a plot of state-owned land in Chinatown.
Then-Ald. Daniel Solis, who was secretly cooperating with the investigation, recorded numerous conversations with Madigan as part of the Chinatown land investigation, including one where the speaker allegedly told Solis he was looking for a colleague to sponsor a construction project. law approving the sale of the land. The case was never consummated.
Lawyers for Madigan and McClain have argued in earlier court documents that federal investigators, in their zeal to land a prized political target, cut the probe short and ultimately filed charges that abuse the Bribery Act and attempt to criminalize legal lobbying and political politics.
Madigan’s legal team also accused federal prosecutors of misleading the Chief Justice into requests to tap the phone of Solis and later members of Madigan’s inner circle, saying they deliberately misled. interpreted an innocent 2014 meeting with Chinatown developers at the speaker’s law firm as a possible shakedown, then later buried crucial “exculpatory” information in a footnote.
Madigan’s lawyers, Sheldon Zenner, Daniel Collins and Gil Soffer, asked Blakey for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether investigators made false statements in the wiretap requests.
Although rarely granted, the so-called Franks hearing could provide fascinating insight into how the government has built its investigation, first gathering evidence of Solis’ own wrongdoings, then pressing him to cooperate against two of the most powerful and oldest in the state. politicians, Madigan then Chicago Ald. Edward Burke.
The motions largely centered on an Aug. 18, 2014, meeting at Madigan’s law firm where developer See Wong, who was secretly cooperating with investigators due to his own wrongdoings, met with the speaker, Solis and a tech mogul. Chinese real estate who wanted to build a hotel in Chinatown.
The roughly half-hour meeting formed the basis of future wiretap requests for Solis and was also included in later requests to wiretap a phone belonging to McClain, leading to numerous recordings. of Madigan himself.
The defense motion said prosecutors incorrectly “theorized” in their original 2014 application that Madigan and his partner conspired with Solis, who at the time headed the city’s zoning committee, to threaten to suspend Solis’ approval of a zoning application unless the developer has hired Madigan’s law firm.
The false claims were repeated by prosecutors for years in subsequent wiretap requests, even after Solis, faced with a recording of the meeting, tried to explain that he most likely would have approved the zoning change. , whether or not the promoter hired Madigan’s company, according to the defense’s motion.
It wasn’t until 2018 that the government, in a footnote “buried” in McClain’s wiretap request, acknowledged Solis’ statements denying any quid pro quo at the meeting. But the footnote also tried to ‘spin’ Solis’ comments by adding that he admitted that ‘an independent observer would interpret’ what was said at the meeting as pressure to hire the Madigan company.
According to the motion, this comment was added to an FBI report of a “remarkable” two-day session in which Solis was repeatedly questioned by agents and prosecutors trying to analyze what was said on the rambling recording.
Solis, according to the motion, never took the government’s point of view during questioning, only offering the comment, “I see (your) point.”
Madigan was not charged with any wrongdoing stemming from that 2014 meeting. The defense motion said it was due to “one simple reason – Madigan had committed no crime.”
Prosecutors’ response on Tuesday contained numerous pages of redacted documents relating to the Solis warrant and all of the interviews he gave to investigators, most of which have never been made public.
In the unredacted portions of the motion, prosecutors called the defense arguments “without merit,” noting that Solis’ wiretap had been approved by then-U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo, four years before the recordings to be played during Madigan’s trial were made. If there were any issues with the request, they had no bearing on the legality of the request, prosecutors said.
Moreover, according to prosecutors, Solis’ cooperation had led to a wealth of other evidence by the time McClain’s wiretaps were approved in 2018, including consensus recordings he made of Madigan directly soliciting business. for his law firm in exchange for official acts.
“In short, there were no errors in the affidavit, let alone clerical and intentional errors, that would warrant an evidentiary hearing,” the motion states.
Solis was charged with unrelated bribery last year under a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Attorney’s Office and will likely see the charges dropped once his cooperation ends.