Jurors to decide whether ex-Madigan aide had memory lapse or chose ‘loyalty over truth’

Jurors to decide whether ex-Madigan aide had memory lapse or chose ‘loyalty over truth’

By HANNAH MEISEL
Capitol News Illinois
hmeisel@capitolnewsillinois.com

CHICAGO – After a nearly three-week trial that pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s world, the fate of one of Madigan’s most loyal aides is now in the hands of a federal jury.

Tim Mapes, who spent more than 25 years as Madigan’s chief of staff, is accused of lying to a grand jury that was investigating Madigan and his inner circle. He was charged with one count each of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors have repeatedly claimed Mapes’ motive for providing vague answers to the grand jury during his March 2021 testimony was to protect Madigan and his close confidant Mike McClain, an influential former lobbyist with whom Mapes also shared a friendship.

In closing arguments Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Schwartz sought to drive this point home to the jury one last time.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the defendant did not want the grand jury to know how intimately involved Michael McClain was in Speaker Madigan’s operation,” Schwartz said after her two-hour presentation to the jury. “Because doing so would harm his friends.”

Both Madigan and McClain are facing an April 2024 trial on bribery and racketeering charges stemming from the same grand jury’s investigation. McClain was also convicted in a related case this spring for his role in securing jobs and contracts for Madigan allies at electric utility Commonwealth Edison – his biggest lobbying client for decades – in exchange for favorable legislation in Springfield.

“(Mapes) was evasive, he was non-responsive and he flat-out lied,” Schwartz continued before mentioning a final time that Mapes testified to the grand jury under an immunity order. “He did it to protect the boss and stay in the foxhole.”

Both “protect the boss” and “stay in the foxhole” were nods to phrases heard throughout trial. Many witnesses who worked alongside Madigan testified “protect the boss” was a common refrain for those who worked under the speaker, and it was also heard on wiretapped calls played for the jury.

And, as heard on the wiretaps, McClain employed the “foxhole” metaphor on a call with Mapes in June 2018, just a few days after Mapes was forced to resign from his duties in Madigan world after being publicly accused of sexual harassment and bullying. McClain told Mapes that he was upset by Mapes’ ouster and was almost “glad” for the distraction of his mother’s hospice care so he could cancel a dinner with Madigan.

“I don’t think I can contain myself right now around him,” McClain said. “I think I would say, ‘I never thought you’d be the one to leave the foxhole.’”

But in their turn for closing arguments, Mapes’ defense attorneys sought to dispel the government’s theory of motive.

“Three years after (his forced resignation), why would Tim Mapes – who’s been immunized – why would he fall on the sword for a guy who kicked him to the curb three years before?” Mapes’ attorney Andrew Porter asked the jury.

Last week, the jury heard all two-plus hours of Mapes’ grand jury testimony, which included three reminders from the lead prosecutor that lying during the proceeding would constitute a violation of the immunity order – and result in charges.

The jury has also heard hours of calls that were recorded from 2018 and 2019 when the FBI was wiretapping McClain’s cell phone. The wiretaps seem to contradict Mapes’ frequent assertions that he didn’t recall or didn’t know about McClain’s work on Madigan’s behalf, including “assignments” like delivering messages to and from the speaker.

The defense has relied heavily on the notion that Mapes wasn’t shown documents – save for one memo he wrote in 2019 and requested to review during his grand jury testimony – or played any recordings during that testimony or the FBI interview that preceded it in February 2021. Defense lawyers frequently questioned witnesses about events they were struggling to remember, noting that the individuals’ memories could often be jogged when they were shown related documents.  

Porter hit that note again on Wednesday, but also for the first time explicitly floated the possibility that Madigan and McClain were indeed having “criminal conversations” – though he also argued Mapes had no knowledge of them. Mapes, Porter reminded the jury, had a different sort of professional relationship with Madigan than the close friendship McClain had with the speaker going back to the 1970s.

Earlier in the day, Schwartz said Mapes had the opportunity to be a “star witness” in the government’s investigation into Madigan and McClain’s purportedly corrupt dealings. But Porter took issue with that assertion.

“So let’s unpack that,” Porter said of Schwartz’s “star witness” comment. “Because that assumes – without evidence – that Tim Mapes knew whether Madigan and McClain were discussing these topics.”

Porter reminded the jury of testimony from former Madigan staffer-turned-lobbyist Will Cousineau, who said Madigan and McClain would often use the conference room in his downtown Springfield office to have private meetings. Other witnesses in the case testified that Madigan and McClain often dined alone together in Springfield, and that Madigan was a private person.

By the time Mapes sat for his grand jury testimony, McClain and three others had already been indicted on bribery charges in connection with ComEd, and Porter said Mapes was well aware the grand jury was interested in potential criminal activity.

But, he said, Mapes was completely ignorant of that.

“You would’ve heard something after more than nine months of wiretaps. Hundreds of documents,” Porter said. “There’s no evidence about any of that. And that’s because he didn’t know.”

Further, Porter said, in order to prove the charges against Mapes, the government would have to prove Mapes lied about things that were material to the grand jury’s investigation.

But in the government’s rebuttal following the defense’s closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane MacArthur cut a hole into Porter’s arguments, reminding the jury that Mapes knew the scope of the grand jury’s investigation extended far beyond ComEd, as Mapes had been subpoenaed for a wide range of documents related to Madigan and McClain just nine months earlier. MacArthur also noted that just because the subjects Mapes were allegedly caught lying about weren’t illegal “does not mean (they were) immaterial.”

“For whatever reason in his heart and his mind, (Mapes) chose loyalty over the truth,” MacArthur said.

 

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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