In perjury trial, Madigan’s ex-chief of staff will test limits of loyalty

In perjury trial, Madigan’s ex-chief of staff will test limits of loyalty

By HANNAH MEISEL
Capitol News Illinois
hmeisel@capitolnewsillinois.com

CHICAGO – In the summer of 2018, Tim Mapes’ name had only recently faded from unflattering headlines after he was forced to resign from three top jobs he held under powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Mapes, who’d served as Madigan’s chief of staff for more than two decades, had been accused of sexual harassment by a woman who reported to him in his capacity as clerk of the Illinois House. It was the third accusation of sexual harassment within Madigan’s power structure that year, and the speaker was facing pressure to clean house. “At my direction,” a statement from Madigan read at the time, “Tim Mapes has resigned.”

But despite Madigan having publicly cut ties with Mapes, the disgraced political operative was still privy to what was going on inside the longtime speaker’s inner circle, according to wiretapped phone conversations captured by federal agents in 2018 and 2019. Those recordings were captured on the cell phone of Mike McClain, Madigan’s close friend and confidant who’d for decades also been a fixture in the Democratic power structure that controlled the General Assembly.

In an early July 2018 call, McClain told Mapes about a dinner he and the speaker had recently in a loud restaurant. Mapes joked that McClain should’ve told the establishment’s management, “I’m Mike McClain, I’m the right-hand guy to Mike Madigan.”

McClain quipped back, “I’m the right-hand guy of Tim Mapes.”

Less than three years later, Mapes would be indicted on one count each of perjury and obstruction of justice after he told a grand jury that he didn’t know McClain was doing Madigan’s bidding in the years after he officially retired as a lobbyist in 2016.

Mapes allegedly lied to the grand jury despite being under an immunity order; he’d been warned that any untruthful testimony while under the order would result in criminal charges. But the Madigan loyalist has maintained his innocence, and on Monday jury selection begins in his federal trial in Chicago.

In recent weeks, Mapes and government lawyers have filed last-minute motions trying to block each other’s witnesses and evidence, though Judge John Kness has mostly denied Mapes’ requests.

The motions contain previews of some wiretapped phone recordings that will be played at trial, mostly made from McClain’s cell phone. McClain has already been convicted for his role in helping his biggest client, electric utility Commonwealth Edison, bribe Madigan with jobs and contracts for the speaker’s allies in exchange for legislative wins for ComEd in Springfield.

In that seven-week trial this spring, federal prosecutors played dozens of calls featuring McClain and showed the jury hundreds of emails that showed the extent to which McClain went to bat for Madigan. In more than one instance, McClain told colleagues that the speaker was his “real client,” and a few witnesses even referred to him as a “double agent” for both ComEd and Madigan.

McClain is also Madigan’s co-defendant in a related bribery and racketeering case against the speaker, in which the two men are alleged to have leveraged every position of power Madigan held – including as a partner in his property tax-focused law firm – in a “criminal enterprise.” That trial is scheduled for April 1, 2024.

And in this trial, federal prosecutors will attempt to show that Mapes was well aware of McClain’s role as Madigan’s other right-hand man, a label often used for Mapes himself in the decades he served the speaker.

In the weeks following Mapes’ ouster in early June 2018, he and McClain spoke about a dozen times, according to federal court records.

“You’re the only person’s made me cry today,” McClain told Mapes on the day he was forced to resign, according to court records. “Anything I can do, ya know, I’m willing to do, you know that, don’t ya?”

That afternoon, McClain also told Mapes, “I never thought you would be the one to leave the fox hole.”

Though Mapes contended that letting the jury hear certain calls between him and McClain would be unfairly prejudicial, prosecutors argued the calls show why Mapes was so resistant to telling the grand jury anything that might incriminate either McClain or Madigan.

In their other calls that summer, Mapes and McClain also supported each other through McClain’s mother’s death, which the government contends is further evidence of their closeness. But they also discussed legislative and political business.

In a pair of calls within a week of each other in June 2018, McClain and Mapes strategized about fundraising within the Democratic Party of Illinois, where Mapes had most recently been executive director under Madigan, the longtime party chair.

In the second of those calls, McClain allegedly relayed a recent conversation he’d had with Madigan about how to reallocate Mapes’ work with DPI after his departure.

“This is of course relevant to Mapes’ false testimony that he was not aware of the interactions between McClain and Madigan,” government lawyers wrote in a filing last month. “It is also relevant to show that McClain was stepping into Mapes’ shoes after he left, and Mapes knew about it.”

Kness sided with prosecutors in an opinion filed last month denying Mapes’ request to block evidence at trial – including the government’s intention to tell the jury that Mapes violated his immunity order, which Mapes argued was irrelevant.

“As the government argues, Defendant found himself in a difficult position: he did not want to testify truthfully about McClain and Madigan, but he could not invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege because he had signed an immunity agreement,” Kness wrote. “When faced with potentially incriminating questions, therefore, Defendant claimed not to remember – a difficult assertion for the prosecutor to disprove. Because the immunity agreement explains why Defendant answered questions in an allegedly perjurious way, the immunity agreement clears the low bar for relevance.”

Mapes and McClain kept each other abreast of other developments in their world for months after Mapes’ resignation, including when Mapes was approached by FBI agents in January 2019. Mapes prepared a memo after his meeting with the feds, and the next month told McClain about a conversation he’d had with Madigan’s attorney, Sheldon Zenner, according to court filings.

Mapes said he’d given Zenner the memo per “a request,” and that he was calling McClain to “report back in” afterward.

“A jury could readily infer that Mapes made these statements to McClain with the intent that McClain relay them to Madigan,” prosecutors wrote last month. “At the end of the call, Mapes again says, ‘I’m just reporting in,’ again clearly showing that he was intending to keep McClain in the loop, so that Madigan too could be kept in the loop.”

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

 

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