Judge in ComEd bribery trial reverses course, will allow secret recordings to be released to media

ByMichelle Gallardo and Christian Piekos WLS logo
Tuesday, March 14, 2023
ComEd bribery trial judge will allow media to hear secret recordings
The so-called "ComEd Four" trial got underway Tuesday in an alleged bribery scheme to influence former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In a state already infamous for its high-profile corruption trials, this may be, according to some analysts, the "trial to beat all trials," which could disclose exactly how Illinois' political system operated under the once all-powerful former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Day one of what has become known as the "ComEd Four" corruption trial began Tuesday with jury selection and U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruling that he will allow undercover federal recordings to be released to the public. The recordings allegedly implicate the defendants with scheming to bribe Madigan.

Mike Madigan charged with crimes usually associated with Chicago mob

"It will reveal how Mike Madigan operated, how Illinois politics operated, and answer the big question on as to whether or not what he did and how he operated was corrupt and illegal," said ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington.

The ComEd Four are former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd Lobbyist and longtime Madigan friend Mike McClain, former ComEd executive John Hooker and former ComEd consultant and City Club of Chicago President Jay Doherty.

In a deferred prosecution agreement signed two and a half years ago, ComEd accepted responsibility for the charges against it and its former officers and agreed to pay a $200 million fine.

"This could be the trial to beat all trials. This could be a trial and we'll look back and see it's one of the trials of the decade," Washington said.

The trial began two years after the four were indicted on charges that accuse them of trying to bribe Madigan, from 2011 to 2019, in order to further legislation that was favorable to the utility company, which allegedly arranged no-show jobs, contracts and monetary payments to the former House speaker's associates.

Madigan, whose own racketeering trial is set to begin next year, was repeatedly referenced throughout the indictment as "Public Official A."

Former IL House speaker Michael Madigan indicted on racketeering, bribery, more

"I see this as laying the groundwork for the case against Madigan. You're going to hear evidence that directly implicates Madigan in these activities. If the jury decides that there's guilt here, it'd be much more likely that another jury might look at the next trial and see guilt there," Washington said.

The trial is expected to last around two months. Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday.