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

But federal prosecutors have said the plain language of the statute, which bars someone from “corruptly” soliciting or receiving something over $5,000 in value “intending to be influenced or rewarded,” leaves no question that doling out rewards to a politician for an official act is a type of “pernicious graft” that Congress clearly wanted to outlaw.

“As lawmakers have recognized for centuries, corrupt gratuities give rise to deceitful behavior by their recipients, who may carry out their duties in a way designed to maximize the rewards to themselves instead of to the local government or other federally funded entity they serve,” attorneys for the government wrote in their response brief last month.

Oral arguments are set for 9 a.m. Chicago time in Washington D.C., with audio being livestreamed on the Supreme Court’s website. The court is expected to render a decision by late June.

The high court’s decision to hear Snyder’s case has already had repercussions in Chicago. Since the Supreme Court’s announcement in December, Madigan’s trial was delayed from April 1 until October to allow time for the decision to come out and be digested before going forward.

In a parallel case, a different judge agreed, over the objection of prosecutors, to delay sentencings for the “ComEd Four,” a group of lobbyists and executives convicted of conspiring to bribe Madigan by showering his associates with do-nothing consulting jobs and other perks.

In Madigan’s case, prosecutors have noted that the 666 statute is charged in only five of the 23 counts of the racketeering indictment.


In addition to the Solis board appointment, the statute is used to charge an alleged scheme to steer a ComEd board seat to Democratic political operative Juan Ochoa, payments ComEd made to former 13th Ward Ald. Frank Olivo, former 23rd Ward Ald. Michael Zalewski and others, and an alleged push by Madigan to win law business from the developers of a parcel in Chinatown.

In their objection to delaying the trial, prosecutors said they were willing to forgo any argument to the jury that the benefits provided to Madigan “were gratuities, that is, merely rewards for past actions Madigan had already committed to take.”

U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey sided with Madigan’s team, however, saying “it’s better to do it right than to do it twice.”

Madigan, 81, is charged in a racketeering indictment alleging he participated in an array of bribery and extortion schemes from 2011 to 2019 aimed at using the power of his public office for personal and political gain.


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