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Judge pushes back conference in ComEd case with sentencing in limbo

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(The Center Square) – Jurors wanted to send a message to politicians in Springfield when they convicted four former utility leaders and lobbyists of bribing the state’s most powerful lawmaker.

In May 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 in 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.

Nearly 300 days later, the case remains in limbo after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up a case focused on the federal bribery statute that the four were convicted under in May.

The four convicted defendants might not be sentenced for their crimes until after the U.S. Supreme Court decides in the case of James E. Snyder v. U.S., which defense attorneys said could upend the ComEd convictions. The Supreme Court is expected to decide the Snyder case in June.

In December, a judge essentially hit the pause button. McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker and Doherty were initially scheduled to be sentenced in January, but those dates were scrapped along with deadlines for filing sentencing memos.

U.S. Circuit Judge Harry Leinenweber was scheduled to hold a status hearing on the case Wednesday, but on Tuesday canceled it. An order said, “the Court will reschedule at a later time.”

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.

Madigan’s case also has been on pause as the Supreme Court reviews the Snyder case, which involves the former mayor of Portage, Indiana, who was convicted of accepting a $13,000 bribe.