Judge denies defense request to contact former jurors in ComEd bribery case

(The Center Square) – A judge denied a request Tuesday that would have allowed defense attorneys in the Commonwealth Edison bribery case to talk with the jurors.

The jury found four former ComEd executives and lobbyists guilty of bribery-related charges in early May as part of an eight-year conspiracy scheme centered around former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Defense attorneys for former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker had asked U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber to conduct jury research. Federal prosecutors objected to the request.

Pramaggiore’s attorney, Scott Lassar, had sought the judge’s permission to contact jurors “to inquire about the basis for the jury’s decision.”

Prosecutors objected to the request.

“The jury in this case did not shirk their duty. They answered the call for service, and set aside their own lives for almost two months to serve on this case,” prosecutors wrote in response to Lassar’s motion. “The appropriate response to their dedication is not to authorize the defendants to hound this jury—a move that no doubt will also send a public message that jury service is something to be avoided, because even after it is over, jurors and their decisions will be subjected to never-ending scrutiny by disgruntled litigants like the defendants in this case. Make no mistake; in making this request, the defendants are not merely idle bystanders looking to perform impartial ‘juror research.’ Rather, they are intent upon discrediting the verdict the jurors reached.”

Leinenweber denied Lassar’s request in an order on Tuesday.

The jury convicted the defendants on all counts in the case in which prosecutors alleged former state lawmaker and lobbyist Michael McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker and former contract lobbyist Jay Doherty were involved in a multi-year scheme to gain longtime former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s support for legislation that would benefit the utility’s bottom line.

At trial, prosecutors presented secretly-recorded videos, wiretapped phone calls and hundreds of emails to show how the four former ComEd executives and lobbyists were “the grandmasters of corruption.”

Prosecutors said that the utility paid out $1.3 million in jobs, contracts and payments to associates of Madigan over eight years in exchange for favorable treatment on legislation in Springfield that would affect the finances of the state’s largest electric utility.

Defense attorneys said the four never bribed anyone and argued the conduct was legal lobbying, including efforts to build goodwill with elected officials.

After the verdict, Lassar said his client would appeal.

All four defendants face sentencing hearings in January 2024.

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