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Defense cross-examines former top ComEd lawyer

Thursday, Mar 23, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We talked yesterday about prosecution witness Tom O’Neill’s testimony against the ComEd Four. Today, let’s look at his cross-examination. Tribune

“Did Mike McClain ever tell you that Speaker Madigan was guaranteed to support ComEd’s legislation?” McClain’s attorney, Patrick Cotter, asked at one point. O’Neill responded no.

To my eyes, that kinda plays in to the prosecution’s case. The feds claim the reason for the alleged bribery scheme was to make sure a sometimes hostile Madigan did what the defendants wanted.

* ABC 7

On cross-examination, O’Neill admitted that at no time during the years he was General Counsel did anyone at ComEd suggest that Madigan would do as they wanted in the Assembly because he was being given contracts and jobs for his political allies.

Yeah, but he may not have been in that particular loop.

* Sun-Times

ComEd’s former top lawyer confirmed Wednesday that he — not ComEd executive Anne Pramaggiore — made the decision in 2011 to hire a law firm with political ties to Michael Madigan as ComEd tried to pass a key bill in Springfield.

So given that Pramaggiore is now on trial for an alleged bribery conspiracy revolving around Madigan, her defense attorney sarcastically asked Thomas O’Neill whether he then went to Pramaggiore, confessed and said, “I lost my head and I just bribed Mike Madigan.”

O’Neill confirmed he did not. […]

And when asked by Doherty defense attorney Gabrielle Sansonetti whether O’Neill believed the effort to hire Reyes Kurson “was connected to legislation,” O’Neill told jurors, “No, I did not.” […]

The [Reyes Kurson] contract was originally signed in 2011, one day before the Illinois General Assembly overrode a veto by then-Gov. Pat Quinn to pass EIMA. But O’Neill said he didn’t believe the bill was in danger.

Legislative leaders were committed to overriding Quinn, he said.

It may not have been bribery to O’Neill’s eyes at the time, but he wasn’t part of the alleged cabal.

* Crain’s

After getting O’Neill to agree that McClain could be “a bit of a pest,” McClain attorney Patrick Cotter on cross-examination said to O’Neill, “At the end of the day, you did what you wanted to do with Reyes Kurson. You cut their hours.” “Yes,” O’Neill responded.

“Did you intend to bribe Mr. Madigan by hiring Reyes Kurson?” Cotter asked. “I did not,” O’Neill said. […]

In cross-examination, Pramaggiore attorney Scott Lassar, a former U.S. attorney for Illinois’ Northern District, pointed out that [Juan Ochoa’s appointment to ComEd’s board] was being pushed by Madigan as a favor to other politicians. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez wanted Madigan’s help in getting Ochoa appointed. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also went to bat for Ochoa with ComEd, Lassar said.

Likewise, Joe Dominguez, who was ComEd’s CEO at the time (Pramaggiore had been promoted to CEO of all Exelon-owned utility companies and was Dominguez’s boss), had met with Ochoa and backed the appointment, Lassar said. “That was my understanding, yes,” O’Neill replied.

Exelon CEO Chris Crane also sided with Pramaggiore.

* More from the Tribune

“There are fights you pick and fights you don’t. … I thought it was something we could handle,” O’Neill answered [when questioned by prosecutors “couldn’t you have said no” to the contract].

On cross-examination, Lassar and Cotter both zeroed in on whether O’Neill felt that the hiring of Reyes’ firm was a bribe.

When Cotter asked if O’Neill had “a corrupt intent” when he hired the firm, prosecutors objected and O’Neill did not answer. Cotter then asked, “Did you hire Reyes to bribe Michael Madigan?”

“I did not,” O’Neill answered.

* Capitol News Illinois

Although a “due diligence” background check conducted on Ochoa also pulled up items from Ochoa’s past – including a property he owned that was foreclosed upon after he’d stopped paying the mortgage – O’Neill said those concerns weren’t top of mind.

O’Neill said he was more concerned with a person close to Madigan having access to exclusive information about ComEd that the utility’s executives only disclosed to board members in their quarterly meetings.

But in a call with Pramaggiore and the CEO of ComEd’s parent company, Exelon, O’Neill said Pramaggiore acknowledged “the Madigan connection,” and said she was “for that.”

“She wanted to go forward (with Ochoa’s appointment),” O’Neill said. “She thought it was important.

* Isabel’s coverage roundup…


  1. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 10:43 am:

    ===Yeah, but he may not have been in that particular loop.===

    That seems like something the government can establish on redirect.

    ===O’Neill said he was more concerned with a person close to Madigan having access to exclusive information about ComEd that the utility’s executives only disclosed to board members in their quarterly meetings.===

    This is very interesting testimony to me.

  2. - low level - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 10:45 am:

    I call all of this the “legislative - lobby complex” - the lawmaking, lobbying and fundraising that fuels the machine. Similar to the “military - industrial complex” Eisenhower talked about.

    Not sure if it was illegal but this trial is revealing it for people.

  3. - RNUG - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 11:05 am:

    The public is getting a peak at how the spices get tossed in during the sausage making.

  4. - custard - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 11:20 am:

    Rich’s right to suggest O’Neil’s testimony is a microcosm of the case itself, but I think a juror could sit there and listen to an experienced attorney at a large corporation testify over and over that, yeah, this all seemed fishy and designed to curry favor, but it was never overt, and decide no one should go to prison for vIbES.

    And all it takes is one.

  5. - Annonin' - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 11:33 am:

    “It may not have been bribery to O’Neill’s eyes at the time, but he wasn’t part of the alleged cabal.”
    Actually O’Neill was part of decision makers at the time. It was the Citadel lawyer who wanted to say it was bribery.

  6. - low level - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 11:47 am:

    ==all seemed fishy and designed to curry favor, but it was never overt, and decide no one should go to prison==

    I agree. The cross examination was very effective in bringing this out yesterday I thought.

  7. - Friendly Bob Adams - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 12:09 pm:

    This case seems quite complicated to a disinterested observer. I wonder what the jury thinks. Were they expecting to see photos of someone giving someone a bag of cash?

  8. - DuPage - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 12:10 pm:

    ===O’Neill said he was more concerned with a person close to Madigan having access to exclusive information about ComEd that the utility’s executives only disclosed to board members in their quarterly meetings.===

    That might have been a good way for lawmakers to keep an eye on COMED schemes to unjustifiably raise rates on customers. The government contends that instead of stopping these schemes, the lawmaker(s) were in on it. This case is going to be very interesting.

  9. - Lincoln Lad - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 12:42 pm:

    I wouldn’t expect the senior executives as ComEd to directly speak or write emails as to the intent behind their actions. They’re smarter than that. Who do you think they are, Mike McClain?

  10. - low level - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 12:55 pm:

    Lincoln Lad is a genius. 1000% spot on.

  11. - Second place - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 1:26 pm:

    While potentially confusing to the disinterested, I’m sure the recordings being heard in the courtroom are making the case crystal clear for the jurors. This will not end well for these four, which will not bode well for Himself.

  12. - MOON - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 1:58 pm:

    Where is the Quid Pro Quo ?

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