CHICAGO (WLS) -- Opening statements took place Wednesday in a trial involving corruption at the highest levels of Illinois government.
The "ComEd Four" are all accused of a scheme to bribe former House Speaker Mike Madigan.
As the government laid out its case against the so-called "ComEd Four," it was at times hard to distinguish whether they were prosecuting the defendants on trial or former House Speaker Mike Madigan himself.
"Madigan wanted, the defendants gave and the defendants got. It's that simple," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker.
Streicker kicked off with a direct quote attributed to defendant and close Madigan confidant, Mike McClain, in which he is alleged to have said: "It's that simple. We have to hire these guys because Mike Madigan came to us."
That quote, said Streicker, is contained in one of over 100 undercover recordings the prosecution intends to play during the course of the trial. One during which the government hopes to prove that ComEd obtained passage of three key pieces of legislation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the utility company in exchange for providing Madigan's political cronies with contracts, no-work jobs, and even a seat on the ComEd board between 2011 and 2019.
"These weren't real subcontractors" Streicker said. "And they weren't being paid for real work. They were bribes to pay Mike Madigan."
According to the government, those subcontractors -- paid for by ComEd but hired by third parties, like defendant Jay Doherty and others -- included former 13th Ward precinct captains Ray Nice and Ed Moody, along with former Aldermen Frank Olivo (13th) and Mike Zalewski (23rd), as well as former State Rep. Eddie Acevedo.
Each of them earned between $4,500 and $5,000 for the no-work jobs.
Defense attorneys responded to the government's case in their own opening statements. One for each one of the four defendants.
McClain's attorney, Patrick Cotter, said the lobbyist was just doing his job advocating for his client
"Recommending somebody for a job is not soliciting a bribe," Cotter said, adding that the government's overzealous desire to get Mike Madigan has led them to create and inconsistent theory and to the wrongful prosecution of his client.
"Lobbying is not a crime," said John Hooker's defense attorney, Jacqueline Jacobson.
"Approximately 50% of the time Mr. Madigan asked for a job the answer was no. ComEd said no," Cotter added.
Those opening statements could continue into Thursday.
In a preview of things to come, the government stated the first witnesses to take the stand will include former members of the State House, who will testify to the power of former Speaker Mike Madigan, whose own racketeering trial is set to begin next year.