All defendants guilty across the board in ‘ComEd 4′ federal bribery trial

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 5:39 PM CDT
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CHICAGO, Ill. (CBS) - All four defendants have been found guilty on all counts in the ComEd federal bribery case.

Former ComEd lobbyist Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, retired ComEd vice president John Hooker, and former ComEd consultant Jay Doherty were found guilty on each and every count of a nine-count indictment accusing them of conspiracy, bribery, and falsifying documents.

Federal prosecutors accused the defendants of using their influence to reward former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and his associates for about eight years beginning in 2011, in order to ensure Madigan would help them pass legislation beneficial to ComEd. Defendant McClain is also a close Madigan confidant.

The indictment claimed the four defendants conspired to influence and reward the speaker by arranging for jobs and contracts for his political allies and workers.

As CBS 2′s Tara Molina reported, the verdict comes after a trial that went on for more than six weeks – and involved evidence in the form of emails, video recordings, and wiretapped phone calls.

Molina was in an overflow room at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse when the verdict was read. She reported she did not see much reaction from the defendants, but it seemed there was a little bit of surprise to hear there had been a unanimous verdict across the board.

In their closing argument, federal prosecutors went over weeks of testimony, recorded calls and even videos the jury reviewed throughout the trial. They pointed out the main ways they said the four defendants illegally influenced Madigan in exchange for legislation favoring ComEd.

The benefits? The $1.3 million paid by ComEd to subcontractors, allies of Madigan, men who were paid thousands of dollars a month for years for no real work.

There was also $1.8 million paid out to a contracted private law firm, Reyes Kurson, a supporter of Madigan. Prosecutors said the contract was used to reward and corruptly influence Madigan more than once.

There were the internships reserved with ComEd for the 13th Ward, Madigan’s ward, without the same competitive requirements of the standard ComEd internship. Finally, there was also a seat on the company’s board, a pick and push made by Madigan.

Prosecutors argued these were all examples of corruption, not politics. They said the conspiracy reached a point where “when Madigan said ‘jump,’ these defendants said ‘how high?’”

Defense attorneys argued why that’s not the case, telling jurors that “lobbying is not illegal” and “this is not a bribery conspiracy. This is a business decision.” The defense attorneys tried to show examples of what they said prove everything between Madigan and ComEd was above board.

Defense attorney Patrick Cotter said McClain never crossed into illegal territory; he was simply doing his job as a lobbyist.

Defense attorneys also said the job recommendations were commonplace at ComEd and widely discussed, and there were a number of Madigan job recommendations that the company turned down. When it came to those Madigan subcontractors paid for no real work, McClain “expected and intended everyone to work.”

Pramaggiore’s attorney, Scott Lassar, argued Madigan only cared about himself and his own political interests, not ComEd.

Defense attorneys pointed to detailed witness testimony refuting the government’s bribery theory, noting defense witnesses argued they don’t believe ComEd crossed the line.

CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said he expects the defendants will be sentenced to prison, but not to the maximum sentences – particularly since none of them have a criminal background.

“What the statute says the maximum is and what they’re going to get are usually two different things in federal court,” Miller said. “There’s a 15-year maximum on the bribery conspiracy charge, but there’s what we call federal sentencing guidelines – which give a judge some idea what similar defendants get across the country for the particular charge, and they’re usually way less than the statutory maximum.”

Meanwhile, Madigan is set to go on trial himself next year. He and ComEd defendant McClain are facing a separate federal indictment charging them with racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, and wire fraud, most of which carry up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted.

They are accused of a bribery scheme involving multiple businesses - including ComEd - in which the businesses paid Madigan’s associates as a reward for their loyalty to Madigan.

Miller said Madigan was certainly paying close attention to what happened in the ComEd Four trial.

“I suspect if he doesn’t have a heart-to-heart with his lawyer tonight, I think they’ll have that conversation with his lawyer tomorrow in trying to decide what their strategy is as far as going ahead with this case,” Miller said, “and also, it’ll be interesting to see if anything happens with respect to any other witnesses that now come forward that are willing to testify against Michael Madigan that may not have been willing to do that before – and I’m specifically speaking about some of the defendants in this particular case that were guilty today.”

Tara Molina is a general assignment reporter for CBS2 Chicago.