Breaking: SCOTUS Ruling on Bribery Decision Stirs Controversy

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    WESTOCK PRODUCTIONS / shutterstock.com
    WESTOCK PRODUCTIONS / shutterstock.com

    A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a federal bribery law is set to shake up the trial of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. The groundbreaking decision could also open the door for a retrial of the ComEd Four, who were found guilty last year. This new legal twist has the potential to change the course of these high-profile corruption cases.

    On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Snyder v. U.S. Supreme Court. In the majority opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh stated that although it may be unethical or illegal under other laws, offering or accepting a gratuity or reward after an official act does not violate the federal bribery statute §666.

    Saint Xavier University Professor David Parker stated that the ruling complicates matters by narrowing the definition of bribery to a quid pro quo arrangement made before an official action. “Is it kind of a quid pro quo, something for something, or if it’s just a matter of saying ‘thank you,'” Parker said. “And they kind of came back and said, ‘well, if it’s merely just a thank you, a gratuity, it doesn’t violate the law.'” Professor Parker anticipates that the ruling will impact Madigan’s case, potentially absolving him of some charges but not all.

    In 2022, Madigan faced 22 counts of corruption in a case dubbed “Madigan Enterprise” by federal authorities. They accused him of using his position as House Speaker to secure contracts and no-show jobs from Commonwealth Edison for his associates in return for favorable legislation for the utility company over nearly a decade.

    Originally scheduled for April, Madigan’s trial was postponed until October due to the Supreme Court’s decision to review an Indiana bribery conviction challenge. The ruling is expected to affect only seven of Madigan’s 22 counts. He also faces an additional charge in a separate case involving a former AT&T official.

    Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Scott Lassar, defense attorney for former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, said that a retrial for the ComEd Four is likely. These individuals were convicted of corruption last year in Chicago.

    On May 2, 2023, a jury in Illinois convicted former state lawmaker and lobbyist Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker, and former contract lobbyist Jay Doherty. All four were found guilty of conspiring to bribe Madigan with $1.3 million in no-show jobs, contracts, and payments to his associates in exchange for legislative support beneficial to the utility’s financial interests. Due to the new ruling, they now have a chance to retry their case.