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A year after guilty verdict, no sentencing in sight for ex-ComEd leaders

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(The Center Square) – When a jury convicted four former Commonwealth Edison leaders and lobbyists in a corruption case centered around a top state lawmaker, they hoped to send a message to Springfield that corruption wouldn’t be tolerated.

“We’re tired of political corruption,” juror Amanda Schnitker Sayers said after weeks of testimony and days of deliberations ended with convictions on all counts.

A year later, the four convicted defendants remain free with no sentencing date on the books.

On May 2, 2023, a jury convicted former state lawmaker and lobbyist Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and former contract lobbyist Jay Doherty. The case involved a conspiracy to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan with $1.3 million in no-show jobs, contracts and payments to associates in exchange for support with legislation that would benefit the utility’s bottom line.

All four were initially set to be sentenced in January 2024, but that didn’t happen. Rather, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to take up the case of James E. Snyder v. U.S., which defense attorneys said could upend the bribery convictions at the center of the case. Prosecutors objected. U.S. Circuit Judge Harry Leinenweber said in February that he wanted to wait to see what the U.S. Supreme Court would do in the Snyder case before sentencing.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Synder case in June. Former Portage, Indiana, mayor James Snyder was convicted of taking a $13,000 bribe after steering a $1.125 million garbage truck deal to Great Lakes Peterbilt. He was first convicted in 2019. A second jury trial resulted in the same guilty verdict.

For the Supreme Court, the issue is whether a section of the federal bribery statute criminalizes gratuities – payments in recognition of actions a state or local official has already taken or committed to take, without any quid pro quo agreement to take such actions.

The nation’s highest court has yet to rule on the Snyder case, but a ruling is expected this summer.

Once the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the Snyder case, the judge wants the parties to meet again and decide how to proceed.

McClain and Pramaggiore were convicted of nine counts of conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying books and records. Hooker and Doherty were convicted of six counts of conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying books and records.

At trial, prosecutors presented secretly recorded videos, wiretapped phone calls and hundreds of emails to show how the four former ComEd executives and lobbyists were “the grandmasters of corruption.”

Prosecutors said that the utility paid out $1.3 million in jobs, contracts and payments to associates of Madigan over eight years in exchange for favorable treatment on legislation in Springfield.

Defense attorneys said the four never bribed anyone and argued the conduct was legal lobbying, including efforts to build goodwill with elected officials.

Madigan, who resigned after losing the House speakership in January 2021, has been charged with 23 counts of racketeering, bribery, and official misconduct alongside McClain in a separate case that could go to trial in October. Madigan has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.