Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 22 counts alleging that he orchestrated a criminal enterprise for a decade while serving as Illinois’ most powerful politician.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Cole ordered Madigan, who served as speaker of the Illinois House for 36 years and ruled the General Assembly with an iron fist, to be released on a personal recognizance bond.
Madigan did not speak during the hearing conducted by telephone because of the COVID-19 pandemic. His not guilty plea was entered by his attorney Gil Soffer.
Michael McClain, one of Madigan’s closest aides and confidants dating back to the 1970s, also pleaded not guilty during Wednesday’s hearing.
McClain, who served with Madigan in the Illinois House, is accused of orchestrating the scheme to bribe Commonwealth Edison.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for April 1.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu told Cole that he expects to turn over a “rather large” amount of evidence to Madigan’s attorneys.
In a statement released through his attorney after his indictment, Madigan said he was “never involved in any criminal activity” and claimed the feds are “attempting to criminalize a routine constituent service: job recommendations.”
“That is not illegal, and these other charges are equally unfounded,” he said. “Throughout my 50 years as a public servant, I worked to address the needs of my constituents, always keeping in mind the high standards required and the trust the public placed in me. I adamantly deny these accusations and look back proudly on my time as an elected official, serving the people of Illinois.”
McClain also pleaded not guilty through his attorney, Patrick Cotter.
After McClain was indicted, Cotter accused the U.S. Attorney’s Office of attempting to force him to cooperate with their probe and implicate Madigan after he was indicted along with Madigan.
Madigan, 79, was indicted March 2, approximately a year after he was ousted as speaker amid the growing clamor of corruption allegations that swirled around him and his 13th Ward political operation.
Madigan earned $2.8 million from the various schemes designed “to enhance Madigan’s political power and financial wellbeing,” according to the indictment signed by U.S. Attorney John Lausch.
The first glimpse of the political peril now facing Madigan came in December 2020 when Commonwealth Edison officials admitted the utility giant arranged jobs, contracts and payoffs for Madigan’s associates to win Madigan’s crucial support.
McClain was also charged in November 2020 along with ComEd and Exelon executive Anne Prammagiore, former ComEd government relations vice president and later lobbyist John Hooker, and former City Club of Chicago president Jay Doherty in connection with that scheme.
All have pleaded not guilty, and are awaiting trial. In that indictment, Madigan was referred to as “Public Official A.” More than two years later, Madigan faced a judge for the first hearing in what promises to be a lengthy and complicated criminal trial.
In 2020 and 2021, Madigan paid seven law firms a total of $4.8 million from his main campaign account, according to state records. He can use every penny to fund his criminal defense.
Madigan has more than $10.5 million remaining in his account, records show.
In addition to the ComEd bribery scheme, Madigan is charged with illegally steering business to his private property tax law firm amid efforts to turn a vacant piece of land in Chinatown into a commercial development.
Disgraced former Ald. Daniel Solis (25th Ward) was involved in those discussions, according to the indictment of Madigan.
The indictment alleges that Madigan suggested to Solis that he could arrange for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to appoint Solis to a state position, and did not have to put anything in writing to get it done.
Pritzker’s communications director Emily Bittner said Madigan never approached Pritzker.
The indictment does not accuse the governor or his staff of wrongdoing, Lausch said.
Pritzker was informed by federal agents that they consider him a witness to Madigan’s alleged criminal conduct in late February, Bittner said.
Pritzker spoke voluntarily to agents for an hour in late February and was “pleased to cooperate and provide information,” Bittner said.
Pritzker said in a statement that “Madigan must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”