As former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan prepares for a federal jury to decide whether he ran “a criminal enterprise” as the state’s most powerful politician, he now faces a team of prosecutors emboldened by their perfect record of convictions in two trials.
Madigan, 81, once so dominant that he was known as the “velvet hammer,” was at the heart of the allegations that led to 32 guilty verdicts in those trials. He now faces an uphill battle to avoid guilty convictions to match his former chief of staff Tim Mapes and longtime political confidant Mike McClain.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Blakey told Madigan’s attorneys during a brief hearing Tuesday that he was determined to start the former speaker’s racketeering trial April 1, as scheduled, putting an end to delays that will see more than two years elapse between his indictment and his trial.
Madigan is set to stand trial alongside McClain, one of his closest aides and confidants dating back to the 1970s, when they served together in the Illinois House.
McClain was convicted in May in a separate but related case along with three other lobbyists for Commonwealth Edison on charges that stemmed from a long-running scheme that saw the utility giant arrange jobs, contracts and payoffs for Madigan’s associates in return for the former speaker’s crucial support.
Madigan and his lawyers have asked the judge to toss out much of the evidence prosecutors obtained from hours and hours of wiretaps and recorded conversations, claiming those recordings were illegally obtained.
If that fails, lawyers for Madigan are expected to try to convince a jury that the former speaker was not engaged in criminal activity, but simply legal lobbying and politicking.
A similar argument failed in the “ComEd Four” trial, so that may prove to be a heavy lift.
One of the jurors in the “ComEd Four” case had a message for Madigan: Federal prosecutors easily made the case that Madigan “really did cause all this to happen.”
A jury convicted Mapes of perjury and obstruction of justice after prosecutors depicted Madigan as the boss of an Outfit-like operation designed to protect him at nearly all costs.
Mapes faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge and up to five years on the false declaration charge. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10.
McClain is scheduled to be sentenced one day later — Jan. 11. Convicted on nine charges, McClain faces five years in prison on the bribery conspiracy charge, as well to 20 years in prison on each count of falsifying records and up to 10 years on each bribery charge.