HomeTop StoriesIn a behind-the-curtain glimpse, federal prosecutors tell jurors at Tim Mapes' perjury...

In a behind-the-curtain glimpse, federal prosecutors tell jurors at Tim Mapes’ perjury trial how he allegedly protected his boss, Madigan “the wizard.”

In his heyday, Tim Mapes, small but domineering, was feared in Springfield.

He threatened the jobs of staffers and shouted orders on the floor of the House in his capacity as a trusted lieutenant to powerful Democrat Michael Madigan.

Formal investigations called Mapes’ behavior almost dictatorial. But you’d never guess if you watched Mapes last week, docile and respectful between his two lawyers in the solemn setting of a federal courtroom.

He’s a little balder, a little grayer these days. His demeanor at the defense table is extremely calm.

But federal indictments accuse him of doing in the grand jury what he did for decades without punishment in Springfield: protect the boss, Madigan of Chicago.

“I always try to protect him, I mean that’s my goal. It’s like marriage,” Mapes once said, according to prosecutors in their opening statement.

Madigan now faces sweeping racketeering charges. And last week Mapes, Madigan’s former chief of staff, domestic servant and executive director of the State Democratic Party, was put on trial on charges of trying to thwart that investigation.

Prosecutors are accusing Mapes of lying about his knowledge of the political activities of Madigan and ComEd lobbyist Michael McClain both before and after Madigan ousted Mapes in a June 2018 #MeToo scandal amid allegations Mapes disputed.

During the first week of the trial, Mapes’ attorneys argued that he honestly couldn’t remember answers to certain questions when he appeared before federal grand jurors on March 31, 2021. could refresh his memory.

The Mapes case represents a relatively small part of the broad public corruption investigation that federal prosecutors have launched against Madigan, who was ousted from speakership and left the House in 2021.

Yet high political and symbolic interests are at stake. The government already won a major victory this year with the convictions of the ComEd Four, a group that included McClain, the former CEO of ComEd and two other lobbyists.

Mapes, 68, from Springfield, could go to jail if convicted. He is charged with perjury and attempted obstruction of justice. The latter charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, while lying to a grand jury carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Perjury can be difficult to prove. Prosecutors must convince jurors that Mapes deliberately lied about his knowledge of Madigan’s relationship with McClain. But a conviction would add momentum to federal prosecutors, who have their eye on the Madigan-McClain racketeering trial next year.

No audio of Mapes’ testimony has yet been played to jurors. Nor is there any audio of Mapes talking to McClain, whose cell phone was tapped for months by federal agents. That audio, along with a fuller picture of Mapes’ grand jury transcript, is expected to be introduced as early as this week.

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Prosecutors called witnesses to show that Madigan, Mapes and McClain worked extremely closely together — an attempt to convince jurors that it would be completely unlikely for Mapes not to know what the other two men were doing.

Just as they did in the earlier ComEd Four case, Mapes trial prosecutors turned to D-Blue Island incumbent Representative Bob Rita last week to explain how Springfield works — this time with particular emphasis on how Mapes, Madigan and McClain formed a trio with an incomparable influence on the Illinois House Democratic caucus.

There are a total of seven questions that Mapes’ prosecutor has fabricated to protect Madigan. Overall, they claim that Mapes lied when he testified that McClain did not tell Mapes about his conversations with Madigan or provide any insight into what Madigan had instructed McClain to do.

Some of the questions put to Mapes were open-ended. For example, he was asked what he had heard from other people about McClain running activities for Madigan between 2017 and 2019.

“I don’t remember that — that I would have been part of any of those dialogues,” Mapes told the 2021 grand jury. “I wouldn’t know why I would be.”

Mapes’ lawyers kept prosecutors informed of more than 650 grand jury questions, a frightening setting in which Mapes told the truth but refused to guess or make assumptions.

While on the witness stand, Rita, a 20+ year veteran of Springfield, went old school as he explained how closely Mapes, McClain and Madigan worked together.

Rita used his fingers to draw a triangle in the air and told judges that Madigan sat at the top of a small org chart. McClain and Mapes held the corners on each side, Rita explained.

Rita even described how the three lined up along one wall of the speaker’s Capitol suite, with Mapes in a corner office overseeing the front yard and Madigan in a spacious room just a few steps from the house’s floor.

Despite being a lobbyist, McClain often settled in a conference room between Mapes and Madigan’s offices, Rita said.

Rita also regaled the federal courtroom with tales of McClain’s behind-the-scenes exploits as a player, despite his role as a contract lobbyist for ComEd and other major Springfield special-interest companies.

For example, in 2013, Rita explained how Madigan privately told Rita he would be in charge of the high-profile legislation to expand gambling in Illinois, a task that ultimately led to Chicago getting the go-ahead to build a land-based mega casino. to build. As soon as Madigan finished awarding sponsorship of the bill to Rita, the speaker opened the door to his office in the Capitol and McClain appeared on the scene.

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The speaker, who said he had a conflict of interest regarding the gambling bill, then told Rita that McClain would provide advice.

Three years later, while overseeing a major utility package backed by ComEd, Rita suddenly learned of a last-minute change in a commission, a proposal he was inclined to reject because he knew nothing about its impact on the overall bill. .

But Rita told jurors his opposition to the amendment evaporated when McClain “talked to me while the hearing was in progress” and assured him the amendment “would be fine.”

“Mike McClain wouldn’t give me advice that would conflict with what the speaker would want,” Rita said.

Rita’s remark under oath gave jurors a glimpse of how lawmakers viewed the Madigan-McClain alliance and the Speaker’s potential major influence on the outcome of a bill, even if he voted neither for nor against a bill.

In fact, Madigan was recorded as “not voting” on the last roll call when the general utility bill was passed.

In the Mapes trial, Rita failed to deliver the dramatic line he gave months earlier in the ComEd Four trial, where he testified that Madigan ruled the House “through fear and intimidation.”

But Rita gave the jurors a moment almost as memorable when he related how Mapes underlined his well-known role as a gatekeeper in the House by placing a sign next to his desk with a line from the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz,” a line that visitors vividly remembered:

“No one comes in to see the wizard. Not nobody, not how.”

“Who in the analogy did you understand was the wizard?” asked assistant attorney Julia Schwartz.

“Madigan,” Rita replied.

More political intrigue came from witness Tom Cullen, a former Madigan staffer who was once in charge of the speaker’s government affairs development team and was instrumental in helping Madigan regain control of the House in the mid-1990s. ninety after Republicans won the majority for a single two-year term, the only break in the speaker’s national record of 36 years leading a legislative chamber.

Like Rita, Cullen told jurors he received a “non-target” letter from the federal government, assuring prosecutors did not want to charge them.

Cullen came forward in the government’s investigation of Madigan and AT&T Illinois.

The Tribune first revealed that Cullen and his lobbying firm were allegedly involved as middlemen in a plan by the phone giant to funnel thousands of dollars from the company to former Chicago Rep. Eddie Acevedo, once a member of Madigan’s House Democratic leadership team who was starting his own lobbying firm.

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The company reportedly hoped that sending money through an intermediary would help the speaker pass phone laws he had previously blocked.

Former AT&T Illinois president Paul La Schiazza is charged with conspiracy and bribery in connection with the case and has pleaded not guilty.

Acevedo has since served a short prison sentence for an unrelated tax case.

AT&T entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. law firm in connection with the company’s efforts to influence Madigan. In exchange for pleading guilty, cooperating and paying a $23 million fine, a bribery charge will eventually be dropped.

Similarly, ComEd paid a $200 million fine in its own deferred prosecution agreement, in which it admitted to orchestrating an “annual bribery scheme” involving jobs, contracts and payments to Madigan’s allies. A bribery charge against the company was dismissed last month, part of the agreement for its cooperation.

So far, his lawyers in the Mapes trial have indicated they will present a series of counter-arguments to the jury to support the view that the defendant was scrupulously fair.

During the cross-examination of Brendan O’Leary, formerly the FBI’s public corruption agent in Chicago, defense attorneys attempted to consider McClain unreliable, anticipating a likely argument that, although Mapes overheard McClain say he had orders from Madigan, Mapes couldn’t be sure that was true when answering questions from the grand jury.

Attorney Andrew Porter showed O’Leary transcripts of wiretapped conversations in which McClain made wild claims. Porter said, according to transcripts, McClain speculated that then-governor. Bruce Rauner, Madigan’s Republican nemesis, could pay up to $100,000 in exchange for a report that made Madigan look bad.

And time and time again, Porter tried to distance Mapes from the rest of the people embroiled in the FBI’s Springfield corruption allegations. Mapes was not charged in the ComEd Four case, nor was he included in the racketeering charge along with Madigan and McClain, Porter noted while cross-examining O’Leary.

Getting a perjury conviction depends on convincing the jurors that someone has deliberately lied. And Diane MacArthur, another prosecutor handling the Mapes trial, has experience winning high-profile perjury cases.

Two decades ago, MacArthur successfully prosecuted a man who lied to grand jurors about slipping a handcuff key on a federal inmate who then killed two officers in an attempt to flee the courthouse. He was sentenced to a whopping 20 years in prison.

When MacArthur gave her opening statement in the Mapes trial last week, she gave jurors a simple but direct message:

“The truth matters.”

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