Chicago Sun-Times


Motions offer new context to a secretly recorded 2014 meeting between Madigan, then-Ald. Danny Solis, a hotel developer and a government informant


Former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan asked a federal judge Tuesday to toss secret recordings made by investigat­ors and dismiss part of the bombshell racketeeri­ng indictment the feds spent years building against him.

The more than 100 pages of motions filed in federal court amount to the most substantiv­e response yet from Madigan’s defense attorneys to the aggressive public corruption investigat­ion that swirled around him long before he was indicted in March 2022.

They also offer new context to a secretly recorded August 2014 meeting between Madigan, then-Ald. Danny Solis, a hotel developer and a secret government informant. The Chicago Sun-Times exposed details of that recorded meeting in January 2019 in a report that first revealed the feds’ interest in the powerful Southwest Side Democrat.

Though Madigan did not appear to cross any legal lines in that meeting, Madigan’s attorneys painted it Tuesday as the starting point of the feds’ lengthy pursuit of Madigan — and wrongly so, they say.

They said the feds submitted an applicatio­n the next month to the city’s chief federal judge. It allegedly theorized that Madigan and Solis had conspired to withhold Solis’ approval of a zoning change unless the developer hired Madigan’s law firm.

Madigan’s firm was not hired by the developer.

“A full and fair review of the audio and video recording of the meeting, as well as analysis of the surroundin­g circumstan­ces, demonstrat­es that the government’s inferences were not objectivel­y reasonable,” defense attorney Sheldon Zenner wrote. “In fact, they were purposeful­ly false.”

Zenner and the rest of Madigan’s legal team wrote that the applicatio­n, filed on Sept. 26, 2014, amounted to the “first time that the government sought authority to intercept Madigan’s communicat­ions.”

The meeting took place two years before Solis began cooperatin­g with the feds and making his own secret recordings of Madigan and others. Madigan’s team wrote that the feds later pressed Solis about the meeting, including in 2016, and again for two days in 2018.

Solis purportedl­y said the hotel developer would have received the zoning change he sought “regardless” of his decision to hire Madigan’s law firm.

Madigan’s attorneys wrote that “each and every applicatio­n” aimed at electronic­ally surveillin­g Madigan until 2019 used the same informatio­n as the Sept. 26, 2014, applicatio­n.

“The government’s own cooperator … essentiall­y explained that their theory about what happened in August 2014 was factually wrong, and the government failed to disclose that to the chief judge,” the defense attorneys wrote.

Prosecutor­s finally did so in a footnote in 2018, the defense attorneys alleged.

They have asked a judge for a hearing.

The motions are reminiscen­t of those filed by defense attorneys for indicted Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), whose separate racketeeri­ng case was built in part on evidence gathered by Solis. U.S. District Judge Robert Dow denied those motions in June.

Tuesday’s election night deadline for Madigan’s attorneys to file the new motions was set in January by U.S. District Judge John Blakey, who presides over the case.

The man who secretly recorded the August 2014 meeting, See Y. Wong, was sentenced two months ago to 16 months in prison for an unrelated fraud scheme. During that hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu described Wong as a “catalyst” in the feds’ investigat­ion.

The details of the meeting were contained in a May 2016 FBI affidavit obtained by the Sun-Times. It said Wong began providing informatio­n to the FBI in May 2014, while he was representi­ng a Chinese businessma­n who wanted a zoning change to build a hotel in Chinatown.

To secure that zoning change, Wong turned to Solis, who was then the head of the City Council’s zoning committee. As a result, Wong wound up in the meeting that August with Solis and Madigan at the law firm of Madigan & Getzendann­er.

Madigan and his law partner explained the firm’s services and fees during the meeting, and at one point Madigan said, “We’re not interested in a quick killing here. We’re interested in a long-term relationsh­ip,” according to the affidavit.

After the meeting and outside Madigan’s presence, Solis allegedly told Wong that “if he works with the speaker, he will get anything he needs for that hotel.”

Madigan was indicted in March 2022, and the feds expanded their case against him last October. He is accused in multiple schemes — some involving Solis — but among them is the bribery scandal involving ComEd. None of the charges is a direct result of the August 2014 meeting.

Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggior­e, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty all face trial March 14 for their alleged roles in the ComEd scheme.

In a motion asking Blakey to dismiss parts of the separate indictment against Madigan — which also levels charges against McClain — Madigan’s attorneys insist it is common for public officials to make job recommenda­tions. They acknowledg­ed that some people may even be hired to curry favor with public officials.

But they wrote, “currying favor with government officials — even those with the capacity to influence legislatio­n of interest to the employers — is legal.”

What’s not legal, they wrote, is “corruptly soliciting something of value in return for official action.”

The indictment against Madigan, they insist, “blurs that distinctio­n entirely.”

 ?? ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES FILE ?? Illinois’ former Speaker of the House Mike Madigan speaks during a committee hearing on the Southwest Side on Feb. 21, 2021.
ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES FILE Illinois’ former Speaker of the House Mike Madigan speaks during a committee hearing on the Southwest Side on Feb. 21, 2021.

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