Former ComEd CEO testifies secretly recorded call in bribery case actually 'proves my innocence'
CHICAGO - Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore held her ground while being cross-examined by a federal prosecutor in her corruption trial Tuesday, insisting that a secretly recorded call central to the feds’ case against her "proves my innocence."
She did so while going toe-to-toe with Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker, who questioned Pramaggiore for around two and a half hours and challenged the assertions Pramaggiore made Monday on the witness stand.
FBI cooperator Fidel Marquez had told Pramaggiore during that call that people paid by ComEd through a contractor "pretty much collect a check" — even naming one as former 13th Ward Ald. Frank Olivo.
But Pramaggiore claimed she didn’t realize they were tied to then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Pramaggiore told Streicker she had forgotten about the call by the time two FBI agents served her with a search warrant for her cell phone on May 14, 2019.
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Pramaggiore and Streicker also discussed a September 2019 meeting between Pramaggiore and prosecutors.
Pramaggiore, Madigan confidant Michael McClain, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty are accused of arranging for jobs, contracts and money for Madigan allies in an illegal bid to sway him as legislation crucial to ComEd moved through Springfield.
Streicker’s cross-examination of Pramaggiore could be a pivotal moment in the trial of the four former political power players, now in its sixth week. Her testimony ended before the trial’s lunch break, and Hooker’s lawyers were expected to begin calling witnesses next.
Things turned tense early on as Streicker began questioning Pramaggiore. The prosecutor asked Pramaggiore about her background as a theater major.
"You wanted to be an actor?" Streicker asked.
"I did," Pramaggiore said. "That didn’t go so well for me."
The call that triggered the most intensity during Streicker’s cross-examination took place on Feb. 18, 2019. Marquez was an executive at ComEd at the time and had agreed to cooperate with the FBI. Pramaggiore had moved on from her role as ComEd’s CEO and had been promoted to CEO of Exelon Utilities.
Marquez told Pramaggiore that people being paid by ComEd through a contract with Doherty’s firm "pretty much collect a check." He explained that messing with it could mean things could go "bad for us in Springfield." He also mentioned Olivo, who once represented Madigan’s power base on the Chicago City Council.
Pramaggiore wound up suggesting that Marquez tell ComEd’s new CEO that "it’s probably a good time to make a switch," but she suggested he wait until after the end of the legislative session. She said they did not want someone to get "their nose out of joint," forcing ComEd to give someone "a five-year contract because we’re in the middle of needing to get something done in Springfield."
Despite that call, Pramaggiore told the feds in September 2019 that she did not recall whether Doherty employed subcontractors, according to her cross-examination Tuesday. In fact, by the time the FBI agents showed up for her phone in May 2019, Pramaggiore said she had already forgotten the call.
Pramaggiore even insisted to the prosecutor that, if she had remembered it, "I would have shared it with you, because it proves my innocence."
At one point in the call, Pramaggiore could be heard saying, "Oh my God." She testified that was because she was "taken aback" by some of Marquez’s comments.
"You were so taken aback you forgot this call?" Streicker asked.
Pramaggiore told the prosecutor she’d told Marquez what to do and "I would assume it would have been taken care of."
"I sent [Marquez] to his boss, the CEO of ComEd, to address it," Pramaggiore testified.
Streicker challenged Pramaggiore once again, asking, "And in a matter of weeks, you forgot about this call with [Marquez], right?"
Pramaggiore replied, "It probably didn’t take that long."
Patrick Cotter, McClain’s attorney, also took a turn questioning Pramaggiore about the case. He asked whether there were any consequences for not increasing the hours for the politically connected Reyes Kurson law firm.
She said, "No," later adding that the firm ultimately had their contract cut from 850 billable hours a year.
Cotter also asked if there were any repercussions that came specifically from Madigan.
"No," Pramaggiore said.