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

Also charged was Madigan’s longtime confidant Michael McClain, 76, a former state legislator and lobbyist who was convicted in the ComEd Four trial last year of orchestrating an alleged scheme by the utility giant to secretly steer hundreds of thousands of dollars to Madigan-backed operatives.

Madigan and McClain have each pleaded not guilty in their case, which is set to begin on Oct. 8.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s legal community will watch in earnest how the Snyder case unfolds before the Supreme Court.

In their latest filing on April 2, Snyder’s attorneys continued to make the case that the line between “benign” gifts and illegal rewards is murky at best.

“But what about tickets to a high-school football game? A college basketball game? The (Taylor Swift) Eras Tour? Where a gratuity crosses the line from ‘benign’ to ‘immoral’ or ‘gives rise to deceitful behavior’ is anyone’s guess,” the filing stated.

Evidence at Snyder’s trial showed that shortly after he helped steer contracts for city garbage trucks to a local firm, Great Lakes Peterbilt, a cash-strapped Snyder showed up at the business asking for a $15,000 loan.

The firm’s president eventually agreed to pay Snyder $13,000, supposedly for contract work involving information technology and human resources consulting, work that Snyder was not qualified to do and never performed.

Snyder’s attorneys argued in their briefs that prosecutors have used the 666 statute to “suspend a Sword of Damocles over millions of citizens’ heads” by repackaging “everyday gift-giving” as a federal crime.


In response, lawyers for the prosecution accused Snyder of offering “a hypothetical parade of horribles” without citing a single case where prosecutors had charged such innocuous conduct in the 40-year history of the 666 statute.

“(Snyder’s) focus on hypotheticals overlooks the very real harm that gratuities inflict, and that Congress chose to legislate against,” their brief stated. “Contrary to petitioner’s repeated suggestion, gratuities are not simply a ‘lesser-included offense’ of bribery, which includes conduct that would not be a gratuity. Instead, gratuities are a different type of pernicious graft.”

However the Supreme Court lands, the decision is expected to finally resolve an entrenched, 5-2 split among U.S. circuits on the issue.

Jackie Bennett Jr., who represented Snyder against the bribery charges in Indiana federal court, told the Tribune in January that he was “not surprised” that the Supreme Court agreed to take the case.

“In 20 states and Puerto Rico, the law is one thing. In eight states, they adopted the position we argued in Mr. Snyder’s case. It’s an irreconcilable difference,” Bennett said. “What Snyder did in Portage should not be regarded as a crime.”


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