Jury selection and opening statements are expected to begin Tuesday in the wide-ranging corruption case of four ex-Commonwealth Edison officials who stand accused of scheming to bribe indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The trial of the “ComEd Four” — ex-CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist Mike McClain, retired ComEd executive John Hooker and ex-City Club of Chicago president and former ComEd consultant Jay Doherty — will begin this week, more than two years after they were charged with bribery conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying the utility’s books and records.
Another former ComEd executive, Fidel Marquez, has already pleaded guilty to a bribery charge and is expected to testify at trial that “ComEd hired and paid a series of subcontractors who did little or no work for the purpose of corruptly influencing and rewarding Madigan.”
Madigan, who has since been separately indicted on federal racketeering and bribery charges, is repeatedly referenced throughout the 50-page charging document as “Public Official A.”
According to that indictment, the four defendants tried to bribe Madigan — who controlled what measures were called for a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives — from around 2011 until 2019 in order to further legislation favorable to ComEd and eliminate bills that would be damaging to it.
They allegedly did so by arranging bribes for associates in the former House speaker’s circle, including political allies and those who performed political work for him, such as no-show jobs, contracts and monetary payments.
Pramaggiore and Hooker are accused of cooking ComEd’s books as they conspired to pay Madigan loyalists for doing little or no work, while Doherty was allegedly used as the pass-through.
McClain helped to make the arrangements and otherwise worked with ComEd’s leadership to make Madigan — whom the defendants allegedly referred to as “our friend” or “a friend of ours” — happy by getting ComEd to hire interns from the 13th Ward and having ComEd give Juan Ochoa a lucrative seat on ComEd’s board of directors.
One 13th Ward precinct captain is expected to testify they began receiving $45,000 per year around May 2012 in exchange for calling a list of legislators provided by McClain “to determine if they had any issues relevant to ComEd.” Prosecutors said that captain will testify this work was a “joke,” as there was no substance to it, and understood they were actually being paid for their work on political campaigns.
ComEd itself has admitted it arranged jobs, vendor subcontracts and monetary payments as part of the bribery scheme and agreed to pay a $200 million fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.
“ComEd admits, accepts, and acknowledges that it is responsible under United States law for the acts of its current and former officers, employees, and agents as charged in the Information and as set forth in the Statement of Facts … and that the facts alleged in the Information and described in the Statement of Facts are true and accurate,” prosecutors wrote in that agreement.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber — fresh off the R. Kelly child pornography trial in which he sentenced the R&B singer to 20 years in prison — granted a defense motion that sought to exclude testimony from former alderman and current professor emeritus at the University of Illinois Chicago Dick Simpson.
Prosecutors wanted Simpson to testify about the “political machine,” in which “public officials … have a need to award material incentives (such as jobs) to precinct captains, political allies, and the like in order to maintain power.”
Leinenweber has also ruled that wiretapped conversations that will be admitted as evidence will not be released publicly after they are admitted at trial, saying that doing so would “sensationalize things more than we want.”
The trial is could last up to two months.
Amanda Vinicky contributed to this report.