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Star ComEd 4 prosecution witness grilled hard by defense

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I talked with two reporters who are covering the ComEd 4 trial and they both said yesterday’s cross-examination of Fidel Marquez by Mike McClain’s attorney Patrick Cotter was truly intense. Here’s Jon Seidel and Tina Sfondeles

Fidel Marquez made a decision four years ago that might have saved the longtime ComEd executive from dying in prison: He joined Chicago’s long list of government moles and began to secretly record his friends and colleagues for the FBI.

But Thursday, while being grilled on a federal witness stand, Marquez learned that decision can come with a price. With the eyes of his since-indicted former co-workers burning in Marquez’s direction, defense attorney Patrick Cotter pointed their way.

He demanded of Marquez, “You didn’t choose to sit over there, did you?”

“You decided to become their worker,” Cotter said, referring to the feds. “And make calls when they wanted to make calls, and go to meetings and tell lies they wanted you to tell.”

Go read the whole thing. Whew.

* Jason Meisner and Ray Long

Cotter also had harsh criticism for the deal the 61-year-old Marquez struck with investigators, in which he agreed to wire up on his colleagues and eventually pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy. Marquez could have faced the rest of his life in prison, but prosecutors will instead recommend that he get no jail time, Marquez has testified.

“So the government offered something you wanted — not to die in prison — and you offered something they wanted, your testimony,” Cotter said. “That wasn’t a bribe, was it?”

“No,” Marquez answered.

Again, there’s lots more.

* Hannah Meisel

Cotter noted that for the first year of Marquez’s cooperation with the government, he still insisted he had not done anything criminal, attempting to paint his eventual guilty plea in September 2020 as a purely opportunistic move to avoid prison time.

“You understood that if you persisted in saying you were innocent, you could be criminally charged and potentially face 30 years in prison,” Cotter said.

Marquez responded with the exact maximum prison sentence: “405 months,” which is “33 years and five months,” Marquez offered.

“You remember,” Cotter replied. “And you remember because it’s important to you.…that’s why you’re sitting where you’re sitting.”

Cotter reminded the jury that FBI agents did not record their initial two-hour conversation with Marquez.

“By the end of that two hours, you had decided, without consulting with anybody on the planet except possibly the two FBI agents, that you were going to cooperate with the government and…(wear) a recording device and (record) your friends and co-workers, right?” Cotter asked Marquez.

“Yes,” Marquez responded.

And again, click here for more.

* Steve Daniels

Likewise, the existence of voluminous emails where McClain leans on Marquez and ComEd to hire or find work for people at Madigan’s request should suggest that McClain had no criminal intent, Cotter said.

“Did Mike McClain ever say, let’s not send emails about this? Come by my office and we’ll talk?” Cotter asked Marquez.

After all, Cotter told Marquez, “You know emails never go away. The government can always find emails if they want.”

“Clearly,” Marquez said dryly, drawing laughs in the courtroom.

* Matt Masterson

He also played a recorded phone call Thursday from May 2018 between Marquez, Pramaggiore and McClain in which they discussed strategies for defeating a rate increase bill backed by Madigan’s daughter, then-Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

On the call, the trio discuss using “all of our assets” — including labor unions, vendors, customers and municipal leaders — and “pulling out all the stops” to kill the legislation. But they make no mention of involving Madigan himself.

“At any point in this conversation, does McClain say, ‘Well, I’ll just go to the speaker because he owes us and I’ll ask him to ask Lisa to change the bill or pull it?’” Cotter asked.

“No. … He never said words like that,” Marquez said.

* Isabel’s roundup…

       

28 Comments
  1. - Just In Case - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 9:57 am:

    The only thing missing from that line of questioning is bringing in the relative from the old country.

    An organized crime syndicate was operational for years.


  2. - Amalia - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 10:07 am:

    Cotter, channeling all his rage that once again he’s not in the running to be the USAttorney of Northern Illinois.


  3. - Hannibal Lecter - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 10:14 am:

    === Cotter, channeling all his rage that once again he’s not in the running to be the USAttorney of Northern Illinois. ===

    I don’t know anything about that, but from my view, Cotter has been very effective on the defense side of this trial so far. The question is whether it is making an impact on the jury. Time will tell.


  4. - Paddyrollingstone - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 10:15 am:

    Amalia - I think that’s a bit unfair. Pat’s a tremendous lawyer and all-around good guy. It was a fantastic cross.


  5. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 10:23 am:

    ===“By the end of that two hours, you had decided, without consulting with anybody on the planet, except possibly the two FBI agents, that you were going to cooperate with the government and become a confidential source … wearing a recording device and recording your friends and co-workers, right?” Cotter asked.===

    Our judicial system isn’t perfect, but I highly doubt that a federal judge would accept a guilty plea for something that wasn’t a crime. Especially something that had this much public interest and if the defense is really hoping to paint avoiding prison time as being like a bribe from the FBI that seems like a really weak defense.

    The only people that it might impact are the defendants who had someone they trusted as a co-conspirator wear a wire to record evidence of their crimes.

    No one will be impressed by the moron that does time in prison to try to protect Mike Madigan from justice.


  6. - Larry Bowa Jr. - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 10:29 am:

    Let me paraphrase Cotter here….“You only consulted with law enforcement and not anyone from the crime syndicate you worked for previously before agreeing to testify against them, did you?!?”

    I don’t think that one’s the winner Cotter and the peanut gallery seem to think it is.
    Any port in a storm though.


  7. - jim - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 10:32 am:

    it’s routine to go after the rat who testifies against his former allies. but showing that he acted out of self-interest doesn’t necessarily undermine the quality of the evidence that the rat collected for the feds.
    as to whether the rat believed or didn’t believe he was committing a crime, that’s irrelevant.
    he probably didn’t think much about pursuing business as usual or about the importance of keeping it all secret.


  8. - low level - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 10:49 am:

    He was facing 30+ years. Of course he cooperated. I dont blame him or anyone else for working for them facing that.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 10:54 am:

    ===He was facing 30+ years. Of course he cooperated. I dont blame him or anyone else for working for them facing that.===

    You make any deal (or agree to any deal) with the G before consulting counsel, that’s not the wisest of things when looking to cooperate.

    There’s a reason they try to isolate you and would like decisions made “before it’s too late”

    Pesky lawyers

    All the same, make a deal, sure, folding before even seeking counsel? Hmm.


  10. - Ducky LaMoore - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:02 am:

    “I don’t think that one’s the winner Cotter and the peanut gallery seem to think it is.”

    Maybe not. But the defense is establishing a narrative. That seems to be part of the foundation.


  11. - low level - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:03 am:

    ==consulting counsel==

    I’ll absolutely agree he should have had an attorney look at everything as it appears the others who are cooperating apparently did, but in the end I wonder if his decision would have been any different.

    The guy was (is) scared and with good reason.


  12. - Homebody - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:06 am:

    Cotter is doing his job. I’m an attorney and I have at times in the past had to defend my (governmental) client in cases where my client’s employee definitely screwed up. Sometimes your best cards to play are still pretty bad cards.


  13. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:07 am:

    ===but===

    There is no “but”

    ===The guy was (is) scared and with good reason.===

    They made him an “offer he couldn’t refuse”… as they put it.

    No other way to slice, dice, excuse, or apologize… you seek counsel. You have rights. Full stop.

    Choosing not to exercise your own rights for safety is reckless “at best”


  14. - MOON - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:08 am:

    Candy

    A judge will accept a plea without knowing all the circumstances as long as the defendant acknowledges he agrees.


  15. - Friendly Bob Adams - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:12 am:

    My take is that the defense is trying to establish that something fishy happened in the un-recorded two hour meeting, given that everything else was recorded.

    And not specific to this case, but exchanging testimony favorable to the government for avoiding jail time is a quid pro quo. When exchanging cash, it’s called a bribe.


  16. - Amalia - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:18 am:

    oh, I forgot. St. Patrick does not just refer to Fitzgerald.


  17. - Hannibal Lecter - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:25 am:

    === oh, I forgot. St. Patrick does not just refer to Fitzgerald. ===

    Sounds like you have a personal issue with him rather than an issue based on anything relating to this trial.


  18. - low level - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:49 am:

    McClain to FM - “Dont put anything in writing”

    This from a guy who wrote everything in emails.


  19. - Sue - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 11:50 am:

    Cotter did what all defense lawyers do- portray a govt witness as a self serving turncoat. The Defendants’ problems are that the tape recorded calls and videos all evidence the crimes committed and it really won’t matter whether a govt witness obtained a probation deal - unless the jurors choose to ignore the law and evidence all four of these folks will be spending a good number of years in a federal prison as will the Spezker after his trial


  20. - WestBurbs - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 12:02 pm:

    Homebody summed up my almost four decades of practicing law pretty well — “Sometimes your best cards to play are still pretty bad cards.”


  21. - Jed Bartlett - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 12:04 pm:

    It would be surprising if the attorneys didn’t attack the cooperating witness’ credibility based on their plea deal. It’s been known to work (one of the college admissions defendants was acquitted and a couple of the Michigan Governor kidnapping defendants as well) and it’s not unheard of for the witness to regret their plea and cooperation either (See David Duncan of Arthur Andersen fame and Michael Flynn). We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out in this case.


  22. - Lincoln Lad - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 12:23 pm:

    I think St Patrick comes across as a bully. That may help if the witness changes their testimony as a result. I don’t think that is happening. The witness gets sympathy if the bully does nothing through their bully tactic. IMO it’s working against Cotter… but i’m not on the jury


  23. - ANNON'IN - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 12:30 pm:

    An”offer” after 2 hour chat that mentioned $400K,girlfriend and ex wife. Tribbie readers did not get that.


  24. - Amalia - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 1:34 pm:

    @Hannibal Lecter, no connection to him whatsoever. just watching him in action.


  25. - Hannibal Lecter - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 2:57 pm:

    === @Hannibal Lecter, no connection to him whatsoever. just watching him in action. ===

    Then what is your beef with him? It seems to me that he is doing exactly what he is getting paid to do - zealously defend his client. I don’t recall reading that there were any objections from the prosecution or any admonishments from the judge so it doesn’t appear at first glance that he is doing anything wrong.


  26. - South Side - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 3:25 pm:

    If Pramaggiore is in trouble for signing the Doherty contract, then why is it ok for Domingez to extend the Doherty contract?


  27. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 3:38 pm:

    ===then why is it ok for Domingez to extend the Doherty contract? ===

    Prosecutorial discretion?

    He may have helped with the deferred prosecution agreement is my guess.


  28. - Been There - Friday, Mar 31, 23 @ 4:18 pm:

    =====It would be surprising if the attorneys didn’t attack the cooperating witness’ credibility based on their plea deal. It’s been known to work=====

    It will also be interesting to see how Cotter cross examines the FBI agents when they testify.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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