Supreme Court review of Indiana case could affect guilty verdicts in ComEd bribery trial, lawyers say
The dispute is over whether a federal bribery statute criminalizes only bribery, as opposed to also criminalizing so-called gratuities or rewards.
Four people convicted of conspiring to bribe then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to benefit ComEd want their fast-approaching sentencings put on hold as the Supreme Court considers a separate case, arguing its ruling could prove “fatal” to the verdict against them.
The case picked up Wednesday by the high court revolves around a statute central to the convictions in this year’s ComEd bribery trial — as well as a long-running dispute in Chicago’s federal court.
The issue is also at play in Madigan’s own criminal case, set for trial in April.
Longtime Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty are all set to be sentenced in January. Those hearings are to begin Jan. 11, with the sentencing of McClain.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber declined in November to grant a one-month delay in those proceedings. But defense attorneys for the four now want to put “all proceedings” on hold as the Supreme Court considers the corruption conviction of James Snyder, a former mayor of Portage, Indiana.
The ComEd defense attorneys insist in their six-page filing that “the Supreme Court’s decision in Snyder is certain to impact [the ComEd] case, and it has a substantial chance of requiring dismissal of the charges, acquittal or, at a minimum, a new trial.”
In dispute in the ComEd case is whether the federal program bribery statute criminalizes only bribery, as opposed to also criminalizing so-called gratuities or rewards. Another point of contention is whether a bribery conviction under the statute requires proof of a “quid pro quo.”
Federal prosecutors in Chicago insist that it does not.
The ComEd defense attorneys wrote that the Snyder case “squarely and precisely” addresses the first question and could affect the second.
“In approximately six months, the Supreme Court will rule definitively on the question of whether the government or the defendants were correct from the start of this case about what conduct is criminal, and thus whether their convictions are valid,” the defense attorneys wrote.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago wound up handling the Snyder case because of conflicts involving his former attorney, Thomas Kirsch, who went on to become the top prosecutor in northwest Indiana and, later, an appellate judge.
The ComEd case has long been expected to generate a heated appellate battle before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Shortly after the four were convicted, Pramaggiore attorney Scott Lassar told Leinenweber that there’s a “significant chance that we may be trying this case again.”