(The Center Square) – All four defendants in Wednesday’s arraignment on bribery charges pleaded not guilty in the ComEd scandal while Illinois House Republicans predicted more revelations in the scheme.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, hasn’t been charged with a crime and maintains he’s done nothing wrong. But he’s implicated in the nearly decade-long bribery scheme where the utility said it tried to influence the speaker. Last month, two other former ComEd officials were charged, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and lobbyist John Hooker. Two known Madigan associates, Michael McClain and Jay Doherty, were also charged in the case.
The Chicago Tribune reported the four appeared by video on Wednesday in federal court all pleaded not guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges.
Corruption and fraud expert and Saint Xavier University Professor David Parker said despite the not guilty pleas, there could still be deals made.
“Sometimes, it’s how much do they really want to get to somebody higher up,” Parker said. “So, they’re going to be willing to work out some deals if somebody is willing to provide information that they really, really want, testimony, etcetera.”
While a status hearing is set for Feb. 16, Parker said it could take time to get to a conclusion.
“Sooner or later the truth is going to come out,” he said. “Okay, maybe you’re going to have to wait a long time.”
With the not guilty pleas, federal prosecutors can begin providing additional evidence they’ve gathered in the case as part of the discovery process.
House Special Investigating Committee member state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, said that starts the discovery process with federal prosecutors giving the defense evidence “voluminous” records used to produce the charges.
“Some of it we’ve seen with the recent production from ComEd, but what this also confirms is what we’ve received from ComEd is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
The already released emails have a Madigan associate over nine years talking about jobs and contracts that were a priority of “our Friend,” believed to be Madigan.
Special Investigating Committee chairman state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, said Republicans “only goal has been political theater, even if that means dragging this committee into the middle of the federal prosecutor’s case against ComEd associates.”
“Leader [Jim] Durkin is clearly seeking a public distraction from ComEd emails showing that the company took the same steps to influence him that he would now portray as unbecoming conduct, but his constant attempts to drag a serious investigative effort into politics will not influence the work of this committee,” Welch said in a statement.
Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, denied any impropriety.
“The purpose of the federal investigation and also the Special Investigating Committee is not about job recommendations, it is about a nine-year bribery scandal between Commonwealth Edison and Mike Madigan,” Durkin said.
Durkin demanded Madigan resign immediately.
“Previous statements still stand,” a spokesperson for Madigan said Wednesday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker stood by what he said weeks ago that Madigan should step down if he doesn’t answer questions. He also said the “clock is ticking” for who will be the next speaker. Madigan has lost the support of at least 18 House Democrats, but the governor stopped short of calling a special session to force the question.
Lawmakers aren’t back until just before the new General Assembly is seated in January.