Prosecutors oppose new trial in ComEd case after Supreme Court decision

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Defendants in the ComEd Four corruption trial listen as the verdict is read on May 3, 2023 — Courtroom sketch courtesy of L.D. Chukman.

CHICAGO – Federal prosecutors told a judge Tuesday that they oppose plans by defense attorneys to seek a new trial for four convicted former executives and lobbyists for the state’s largest utility after the U.S. Supreme Court blunted part of a federal bribery law last month.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu said a new trial wasn’t necessary and any possible errors in jury instructions related to the federal bribery statute were harmless. 

“We don’t believe a new trial is necessary,” Bhachu said.

Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore’s attorney, Scott Lassar, said after the Supreme Court ruling that a new trial was needed at minimum.

Judge Manish Shah gave defense attorneys until Aug. 27 to file motions for a new trial or other relief in the wake of the decision from the nation’s highest court. Prosecutors will have to respond by Oct. 15 and any replies will be due by Nov. 14.

No new sentencing date was set. Lassar said he may re-new his motion for a judgement of acquittal. He said no jury would have convicted his client if properly instructed.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal bribery statute that makes it a crime for state and local officials to accept gifts valued at over $5,000 from a donor who had previously been awarded contracts or other government benefits thanks to the official’s efforts. The 6-3 decision could affect how prosecutors across the country pursue public corruption cases.

On May 2, 2023, an Illinois jury convicted former state lawmaker and lobbyist Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and former contract lobbyist Jay Doherty. The case involved a conspiracy to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan with $1.3 million in no-show jobs, contracts and payments to associates in exchange for support with legislation that would benefit the utility’s bottom line.

The defendants in the case were convicted, but not sentenced. The former judge overseeing the case before his death put the sentencing on hold until after the Supreme Court decision.

McClain and Pramaggiore were convicted of nine counts of conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying books and records. Hooker and Doherty were convicted of six counts of conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying books and records.

At trial, prosecutors presented secretly recorded videos, wiretapped phone calls and hundreds of emails to show how the four former ComEd executives and lobbyists were “the grandmasters of corruption.”

Prosecutors said that the utility paid out $1.3 million in jobs, contracts and payments to associates of Madigan over eight years in exchange for favorable treatment on legislation in Springfield.

Defense attorneys said the four never bribed anyone and argued the conduct was legal lobbying, including efforts to build goodwill with elected officials.

Madigan, who resigned after losing the House speakership in January 2021, has been charged with 23 counts of racketeering, bribery, and official misconduct alongside McClain in a separate case that could go to trial in October. Madigan has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorneys in Madigan’s case had previously said the Supreme Court decision could have a “monumental impact” on the pending case.

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