Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan pleaded “not guilty” to federal racketeering and bribery charges on March 9.
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has pleaded not guilty to 22 federal criminal charges. The man who had a say in Illinois politics for four decades remained silent during his arraignment by phone.
Co-defendant Michael McClain also pleaded “not guilty”. The indictment alleges that Madigan and McClain orchestrated several bribery and extortion schemes dating back to 2011.
One scheme involved Chicago 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis while secretly cooperating with federal investigators. Madigan reportedly agreed to help transfer Chinatown property from the state to Chicago in exchange for business with his tax law firm.
Thanks to COVID-19 protocols, Madigan and McClain didn’t have to walk through crowds of reporters in Dirksen’s federal courthouse like former politicians did in corruption cases.
The indictment came more than a year after Madigan resigned as president. David Parker, an assistant professor at St. Xavier’s University, predicted that the trial will also take a long time to unfold.
“It looks like he’s in it for the long haul and he’s going to play a sort of ‘who blinked first’ game,” Parker said.
Madigan, who turns 80 next month, does not have to post any bail money. His main charge, racketeering, carries a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.
The next hearing is scheduled for April 1 before U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakely.
Besides illegal bribery, Madigan engaged in legal bribery with government worker unions in which he oversaw decades of generous benefits and paid in exchange for $10 million in campaign committee contributions he was controlling. The results were the country’s worst pension debt, which rose 753% during his reign.
Public unions lost Madigan, but are now trying to enshrine the power they got from him in the Illinois Constitution. Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot would make union power nearly impossible to curb and prevent Madigan-style deals from being undone.