Supreme Court bribery ruling could imperil Madigan, ComEd corruption cases

Could indicted former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan have his federal corruption case dismissed? And could the convictions of the related "ComEd Four" defendants be overturned?

The Supreme Court issued a much anticipated ruling in a bribery case out of Indiana that could put those Illinois cases in doubt.

The court ruled 6-3 that an Indiana mayor was not guilty of bribery for taking a $13,000 payment from a garbage company that he had awarded a public contract to.

The majority ruled that a gift given after the official act was taken, without an explicit quid pro quo, constituted a legal gratuity instead of bribery.

"If I do something as a public official, I take an official act and there’s no agreement on the front end, but on the back end the party gives me something, that’s a gratuity, because there was no agreement on the front end," said former Federal prosecutor Patrick Collins, now a partner with King and Spalding.

The so-called "ComEd Four" was convicted of bribing Madigan with jobs for friends in exchange for favorable legislation. Jurors were instructed that they did not have to find evidence of a quid pro quo to convict. 

Sentencing hearings were postponed pending the eventual Supreme Court ruling. 

On Wednesday, an attorney for convicted former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore said her conviction should be overturned.

"The Supreme Court made clear that what Anne Pramaggiore was charged with is not a crime," said Pramaggiore’s attorney, Scott Lassar.

Patrick Cotter, an attorney for "ComEd Four" defendant Mike McClain, who was known as Madigan’s political fixer, said the case should be thrown out.

"Because the ComEd jury was given incorrect legal instructions, we believe that the verdict in that trial must be vacated," Cotter said. "We may also argue that on the given the evidence at the first trial, there is no legal or factual basis to even put the defendants on trial again. In the alternative, and at a minimum, we will argue that a new trial should be ordered for the ComEd defendants."

Collins agreed that the ComEd Four would most likely be entitled to a re-trial given the new bribery parameters set forth by the Supreme Court. But Madigan’s case would likely go on as planned, since a judge agreed to delay the trial until after the ruling came down.

"It may be a narrower case for Madigan where there’s time for the government to reform their arguments and analysis because of this opinion," Collins said.

A hearing in the ComEd Four case has been set for July 9.