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ComEd 4 defense attorneys make their case

Thursday, Mar 16, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tara Molina

Defense attorneys for the four defendants painted a consistent picture: the defendants were doing their jobs. They were very good at their jobs and never crossed any legal lines.

Attorneys said the evidence will show the government’s focus on taking down Madigan led them to pick and choose the evidence that fits their theories.

The defense stressed to jurors that lobbying isn’t illegal and all defendants were engaged in what’s considered standard practice in Springfield.

* Jon Seidel and Tina Sfondeles

Cotter, representing McClain, called the case the product of an “exceptionally focused, goal-driven investigation” aimed at the former speaker.

“I didn’t count how many times Mr. Madigan — who isn’t here — was mentioned during the government’s opening,” Cotter said. “I didn’t count. But it was a lot.”

Cotter insisted to the jury that they will “hear no words” linking a job recommendation from Madigan with any piece of legislation. Nor, he said, will jurors hear any discussion of Madigan helping pass a piece of ComEd legislation.

“No connection to legislation, no bribe,” Cotter said.

Cotter explained that ComEd — despite allegedly bribing Madigan — invested in a massive lobbying effort to try to get the legislation passed, and that Madigan’s staff still forced the utility into concessions worth millions. […]

[Gabrielle Sansonetti, Jay Doherty’s attorney] also told jurors that there is little evidence to prove the government’s argument that those subcontracted lobbyists did little to no work, arguing that some lobbyists are hired so they’re not snatched up by a competing firm, or just in case an issue pops up. Others are paid on a retainer. And lobbyists frequently attend dinners, charity events and political events that aren’t necessarily tracked by their employers, she told jurors.

* Jason Meisner and Ray Long

Cotter said that it was clear that federal prosecutors and the FBI developed an “exceptionally focused, goal-driven investigation” that was targeting Madigan from the beginning. In their overzealousness, he said, the government “began to see what they wanted to see.”

“When you’re too focused on getting the big target, everything begins to look like a crime,” he said.

Pramaggiore’s lawyer, Scott Lassar, described his client as a “wonderful woman,” a “Girl Scout” who rescued ComEd from tumultuous times.

He said she “knew that Mike Madigan was only concerned with one thing, and that was staying in power, staying speaker of the House,” and that he ”never lifted a finger” to help pass any legislation on the company’s behalf.

“He was never a friend to ComEd, never was and never would be,” Lassar said. “And she was right.”

* Charlie Wojciechowski

“[Pramagiorre] never asked Madigan for help in passing any ComEd legislation,” [Former U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar said].

* Hannah Meisel

After federal agents approached Marquez in early 2019 with some preliminary evidence they had found when looking into lobbying subcontracts under Doherty, Marquez agreed to cooperate and wear a wire, which continued for months. But Jacobson said Marquez took the government’s deal after learning he could face years in prison “even though he didn’t think he’d done anything illegal.”

“Marquez took the sure thing, the get-out-of-jail-free card,” Jacobson said. “Marquez is a man who lies to benefit himself.”

Doherty’s attorney, Gabrielle Sansonetti, took that theory further, acknowledging to the jury that “there should’ve been more oversight” on the lobbying subcontracts – not from Doherty himself, but ComEd.

“The one guy responsible for all this oversight? You might have already guessed: Fidel Marquez,” Sansonetti said, claiming that when the feds discovered Marquez failed to do his oversight job, “he passed the buck, he became an informant.”

* Sam Charles, Erik Runge and Julian Crews

Scott Lassar, Pramaggiore’s defense attorney, told the jury that his client was well aware that Madigan was only concerned with his political well-being.

“Anne knew, and others knew at ComEd, that Mike Madigan was only concerned with one thing, and that was staying in power, staying the Speaker of the House, staying has head of the Democratic Party,” Lassar said. “Anne knew that Mike Madigan was not a friend of ComEd, never was and never would be. And she was right.”

Jacqueline Jacobson, Hooker’s attorney, told jurors: “John never conspired or agreed with anyone to bribe Madigan in connection with ComEd legislation or to falsify the internal books and records of ComEd. Because John never, never had any corrupt intent.”

Sansonetti said Doherty hired four subcontractors — which prosecutors have said was a bribe to please Madigan — at the direction of Fidel Marquez, a former ComEd executive who wore a wire and is cooperating with the government.

* Matt Masterson

McClain’s defense attorney Patrick Cotter framed his client’s actions as nothing more than legal lobbying.

“When you have a problem that you need to resolve with your elected representative, … it might make sense, if you can, to hire somebody to help you do that,” Cotter said. “It’s not a crime, and it’s not a conspiracy, and you know what, it’s not even suspicious.” […]

Cotter accused prosecutors of zeroing in their investigation on Madigan — who is not charged in this case, but faces a separate racketeering and bribery trial next year — and claimed they began to “see what they wanted to see” — that the defendants “somehow were part of some nefarious conspiracy.”

“The government’s theory is wrong,” Cotter said. “It’s too simple.”

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  1. - Ryder - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 10:06 am:

    Cotter seems to be a very sharp attorney representing McClain. I wasn’t impressed at all with Lassar representing Pramagiorre…… “Mike Madigan was not a friend of Com Ed……” Come on….that’s laughable. He had everybody working there. That’s the best he got?

  2. - RNUG - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 10:11 am:

    Not all “quid pro quo”s are overt. That’s what this case will come down to … assumptions and expectations.

  3. - Lincoln Lad - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 10:25 am:

    How this case goes will have a lasting impact on what happens in Springfield for years to come. I hope it puts an end to the acceptance of the abuse of power without accountability. Enough.

  4. - Streamwood Fish - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 10:31 am:

    Scott Lassar was a lousy U.S. Attorney and he has a nasal voice. not a good look to the jury

  5. - Streator Curmudgeon - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 10:40 am:

    Prosecutors are stunned when Madigan’s legal team launches Clarence Darrow’s classic “pants under the armpits” defense.

  6. - Back yo the Future - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 10:50 am:

    Defendant’s lawyers all put out some interesting ideas.
    With all the wire tap recordings, documents and 70 witnesses this has to be a bit of a high mountain for them climb, but I thought the focus on the issue of where the lines are in lobbying public officials was important to highlight.
    Hat tip to Cap Fax for covering this case so well.

  7. - Moi - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 10:50 am:

    Streator Curmudgeon @10:40 am. Thank you for making me laugh so loud. :-)

  8. - Steve - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 10:52 am:

    -I wasn’t impressed at all with Lassar representing Pramagiorre-

    Lassar used to run the USA office here. There really is a revolving door.

  9. - Bud's Bar Stool - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 11:11 am:

    Carol Sente just claimed on the stand that the Rules Committee meetings are not public. Huh? The feds aren’t prepping their witnesses?

  10. - Just Me 2 - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 11:11 am:

    It seems to me the defenses’ main argument is that everyone else does it too, and they are being unfairly picked on.

    That argument doesn’t work with speeding tickets either.

  11. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 11:14 am:

    ===That argument doesn’t work with speeding tickets either.===

    Speeding is the act of going faster than the posted limit.

    What exactly are the four being called on when the culture itself is about ethics?

    Good try, but we are going to have to wait to see the hard evidence and what the jury believes, as the culture is seemingly the framing. Little talk to the direct criminal acts.

  12. - Loop Lady - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 11:22 am:

    I’m just ticked off that we’ll really never know how deep and wide the corruption was after the spin doctor attorneys are through.

    I dealt with ComEd in the early 2000’s and they tried to out lawyers my side, lie, and obfuscate.

    They protected themselves and secondly, their shareholders.

    No shame.

  13. - Lincoln Lad - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 11:31 am:

    Senate’s value as a witness already destroyed.

  14. - Lincoln Lad - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 11:32 am:

    ‘Sente’. Auto correct

  15. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 11:33 am:

    I think Doherty’s argument that Marquez was responsible for his subcontractors work, or lack thereof, seems weak. Jay was paid by ComEd. Jay hired the subs. I hope he has more to show he’s simply an innocent bystander.

  16. - Hannibal Lecter - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 11:36 am:

    === Carol Sente just claimed on the stand that the Rules Committee meetings are not public. ===

    Did any of the defense attorneys point that out in cross-examination?

  17. - Rabid - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 11:41 am:

    Sound more like a public grand jury for madigan

  18. - Ares - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 12:07 pm:

    I watched the defense opening arguments. Only one defense attorney mentioned the word “democracy” (and then only one time). Nobody mentioned how having legislators accessible to constituents and interested parties is critical to a working democracy. Only two defense attorneys mentioned the important role lobbyists play in a democracy. Will be interested is this will come up in testimony or closing arguments.

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