Supreme Court to hear arguments on bribery law that could shape political corruption probes in Illinois

Jason Meisner and Amy Lavalley, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Political News

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was the state’s most powerful politician in 2018 when he allegedly met at his downtown Chicago law office with then-Ald. Danny Solis to discuss Solis’ appointment to a lucrative state board position.

Solis, who unbeknownst to Madigan was an FBI mole, made it clear he’d helped bring law business to Madigan and wanted something in return once he retired from City Hall, perhaps a position with the Commerce Commission or Labor Relations Board, which Solis said were both “very generous in their compensation,” according to federal prosecutors.

“Don’t worry about it,” Madigan allegedly said during the conversation, which was secretly being videotaped by Solis. “… Just leave it in my hands.”

That Aug. 2, 2018, exchange, which is a key moment in the sprawling case against Madigan, is charged under a statute that makes it a crime to reward a public official for an official act, regardless of any prior quid pro quo.

Or does it?

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court/ is set to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the very statute that Madigan was charged under for the Solis episode, which is commonly referred to as “666” because of its number in the federal criminal code.


How the high court comes down could have a resounding impact on political corruption prosecutions in Illinois — including the case against Madigan set for trial in October.

The case involves James Snyder, the former mayor of Portage, Indiana, who was convicted under the same bribery statute of taking a $13,000 “consulting” fee from a garbage truck contractor that had recently won two lucrative contracts with the town.

Snyder’s lawyers have argued it wasn’t a bribe at all, but a legal thank-you gesture, not unlike sending a fruit basket to a politician at holiday time in appreciation for their work. In their brief to the Supreme Court earlier this year, Snyder’s attorneys said the interpretation of the law by Chicago’s appellate court differs starkly from other districts and potentially criminalizes all sorts of otherwise innocuous behavior.

“Giving playoff tickets to your kids’ hockey-loving orthodontist as thanks for straightened teeth should not risk prison time,” the petitioners wrote.


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