The racketeering case against former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and his longtime confidant will likely not see any significant court action until next year after a judge Tuesday granted the defense a lengthy extension to review the massive pile of evidence turned over by prosecutors.
In the first status hearing in the bombshell case in four months, U.S. District Judge Robert Blakey set a Feb. 1 deadline for the filing of pretrial motions, saying he was granting the delay “up front” so defense attorneys wouldn’t have to come back and ask for more time.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu had asked for pretrial motions to be due sometime this year. The prosecutor said discovery was “substantially complete” in the case, and noted that Madigan “is being represented by a large and prestigious law firm” and has six criminal defense attorneys that have entered appearances for him.
But Patrick Cotter, who represents Madigan’s co-defendant, Michael McClain, said he and his team are busy preparing for McClain’s upcoming trial in March on separate charges involving an alleged scheme by Commonwealth Edison to bribe Madigan.
Cotter said he’d be at a significant disadvantage trying to go through the discovery in the Madigan case — including 201 discs of material turned over by the U.S. attorney’s office in the last five weeks alone — and preparing motions while also gearing up for a jury trial.
Blakey set a status hearing for Jan. 9.
Madigan, 79, and McClain, 74, were charged in March in a 22-count indictment alleging they conspired to participate an array of bribery and extortion schemes from 2011 to 2019, including a plot to steer payments from ComEd to member of Madigan’s vast political operation in exchange for the speaker’s help with legislation in Springfield.
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The indictment also accused Madigan of illegally soliciting business for his private property tax law firm during discussions to turn a state-owned parcel of land in Chinatown into a commercial development.
Both Madigan and McClain have pleaded not guilty. Their attorneys have accused prosecutors of trying to criminalize legal political actions such as job recommendations in a quest to bring down the once-powerful speaker.
In his other case, McClain, a former state legislator and lobbyist, was charged in November 2020 with conspiring with then-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, lobbyist John Hooker and consultant Jay Doherty stemming from the alleged ComEd scheme.
That case had been set for trial in September, but was delayed until March 4 because of a conflict with the upcoming jury trial of singer R. Kelly.
The indictment against Madigan punctuated a stunning downfall for the longest serving leader of any legislative chamber in the nation, who held an ironclad grip on the state legislature as well as the Democratic Party and its political spoils. He was dethroned as speaker in early 2021 as the investigation swirled around him, and soon after resigned the House seat he’d held since 1971.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Blakey asked prosecutors whether they intended to seek a superseding indictment in the case, which would add more charges and possibly more defendants.
Bhachu said that as of Tuesday, he was “not in a position to indicate to the court” whether that would happen.