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New judge takes over ComEd bribery case ahead of sentencing

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(The Center Square) – A new judge will handle the sentencing phase of a high-profile corruption case centered around former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Judge Harry Leinenweber, who oversaw the 2023 trial of four former Commonwealth Edison executives and lobbyists, died Tuesday evening after 39 years on the bench. He was 87. President Ronald Reagan nominated Leinenweber to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 1985. He assumed senior status in 2002 and maintained an active caseload until his death.

The court’s executive committee assigned the ComEd case to Judge Manish Shah for all further proceedings, according to court records.

On May 2, 2023, a jury convicted former state lawmaker and lobbyist Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and former contract lobbyist Jay Doherty. The case involved a conspiracy to bribe Madigan with $1.3 million in no-show jobs, contracts and payments to associates in exchange for support with legislation that would benefit the utility’s bottom line.

All four were initially set to be sentenced in January 2024, but that didn’t happen. Rather, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to take up the case of James E. Snyder v. U.S., which defense attorneys said could upend the bribery convictions at the center of the case. Prosecutors objected. Judge Leinenweber said in February that he wanted to wait to see what the U.S. Supreme Court would do in the Snyder case before sentencing.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Snyder case in June, but had not published a decision in the case as of Friday, June 14.

McClain and Pramaggiore were convicted of nine counts of conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying books and records. Hooker and Doherty were convicted of six counts of conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying books and records.

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.

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

Madigan, who resigned after losing the House speakership in January 2021, has been charged with 23 counts of racketeering, bribery, and official misconduct alongside McClain in a separate case that could go to trial in October. Madigan has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

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