SPRINGFIELD, Ill. >> Former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who held a virtual lock on Statehouse power for most of the past four decades, pleaded not guilty today to multiple counts of racketeering and bribery in what prosecutors say was a long-running enterprise to amass riches and clout.
Madigan was present by telephone with his attorneys before U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey in Chicago. He did not speak as his attorney Gil Soffer entered the plea.
In a 22-count indictment issued last week, prosecutors charge the 79-year-old Democrat with racketeering conspiracy, using interstate facilities in aid of bribery, wire fraud and attempted extortion.
In describing the charges and potential penalties on Wednesday, assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Singh Bhachu identified seven counts alone that each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charges are related to a deferred prosecution agreement between the Justice Department and utility company ComEd in July 2018. The utility paid a $200 million fine in the decadelong bribery scheme. It admitted that its top administrators doled out jobs and contracts for lobbyists and a Madigan-preferred law firm, in many cases with no work expected or completed, to curry favor.
Madigan is the longest-serving head of any legislative body in U.S. history. He resigned in early 2021 when he couldn’t garner enough votes from House Democrats to serve a 19th term.
Named alongside Madigan in the indictment is longtime confidant Michael McClain of Quincy, once the most powerful lobbyist in the state Capitol. He was initially charged in late 2020. In the newer indictment, he faces charges of bribery and wire fraud. He pleaded not guilty.
Both Madigan and McClain are free on recognizance bonds.
Blakey set a status hearing for April 1.