Prosecutors want life in prison for ComEd 4, defense attorneys say

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(The Center Square) – Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for four former Commonwealth Edison leaders convicted of conspiring to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a defense attorney said Wednesday.

A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request from defense attorneys to delay sentencing.

Defense attorneys had asked for more time to deal with what they said were complex issues regarding sentencing guidelines. At a hearing Wednesday, defense attorney Patrick Cotter said prosecutors would be seeking life sentences for the defendants.

“The government apparently is going to suggest that the guidelines of this case are life,” Cotter said. “And we are asking for what we believe to be adequate time, a couple extra weeks, to respond not only to the [pre-sentencing report] but to what the government files when they’re asking to put our clients in jail for life. And I think that that’s not unreasonable.”

U.S. District Court Judge Judge Harry Leinenweber disagreed. He noted the four were convicted more than six months ago and still have additional time before the sentencing hearings scheduled for January.

“It seems to me that there’s adequate time to get ready for sentencing without moving the date,” he said Wednesday.

Prosecutors had proposed shifting dates for some pre-sentencing court filings, but the prosecution’s schedule would keep the sentencing dates as previously set.

Prosecutors have yet to file sentencing memos for any of the defendants.

Any significant amount of time behind bars for the defendants could amount to life in prison given their ages. The youngest was 64 years old.

The judge will determine the sentences. Federal law requires the judge to impose reasonable sentences based on federal law and advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The guidelines recommend certain punishments for some crimes along with the consideration of a multiple factors, including a pre-sentence report, the defendant’s criminal history and arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys, among other factors. The judge also could consider aggravating or mitigating factors, which can include the nature of the crime and if the defendant has expressed regret for the crime.

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 in a multi-year scheme to bribe Madigan with no-show jobs, contracts and payments to associates in exchange for support with legislation that would benefit the utility’s bottom line.

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.

McClain is up first for sentencing. McClain’s sentencing is set for 10 a.m. on Jan. 11, 2024. Pramaggiore will be sentenced at 10 a.m. on Jan. 16, 2024. Hooker’s sentencing is at 10 a.m. Jan. 25, 2024. Doherty’s is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Jan. 30, 2024.

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.

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 April 2024. Madigan has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

Pramaggiore also could spend more time in the courtroom. In September, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Exelon Corp., electric utility Commonwealth Edison Company and former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore with fraud in connection with the multi-year scheme to corruptly influence former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Exelon and ComEd agreed to settle the charges, with Exelon paying a civil penalty of $46.2 million. ComEd is an Exelon subsidiary. The charges against Pramaggiore will be litigated, according to the SEC.

Illinois’ history of corruption has included sentences of more than a decade in prison. U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel sentenced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to 14 years in prison after his conviction on corruption-related charges in 2011 for trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat held by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder. Blagojevich spent eight years in prison before President Donald Trump commuted his sentence. Blagojevich has said he made mistakes, but never broke the law. In 2006, former Gov. George Ryan was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison after he was convicted of multiple charges related to a license-for-bribes scandal. He served five years in prison and another seven months of home confinement. He was released in 2013.

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