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Tim Mapes

Tim Mapes, the former Chief of Staff of former speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Michael Madigan leaves the courthouse after for pretrial hearing at the Dirksen Federal Court Building, Tuesday, July 25, 2023.

Anthony Vazquez

Madigan’s ex-chief of staff once seemed to know everything, except on the witness stand — now he’s headed to trial for perjury

Tim Mapes once seemed to be the guy who knew everything in Springfield.

He spent two decades as Michael Madigan’s chief of staff, perceived as the only person with direct access to the powerful House speaker. But Mapes was also seen as threatening and controlling, and his tenure ended with harassment and bullying claims in 2018.

Then, three years later, Mapes found himself in front of a federal grand jury. And that’s when prosecutors say he offered “blatantly false” testimony — suddenly claiming to know nothing.

Now, Mapes is set to stand trial Monday on charges of perjury and attempted obstruction of justice for an alleged bid to block the feds’ criminal investigation of Madigan, who forced Mapes to resign in 2018, and Michael McClain, another key Springfield insider.

Public corruption probes have led to the convictions of six people at trial in Chicago so far this year, and jurors at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse have been vocal in rejecting defense arguments. Now a new panel could hear dozens of recordings that prosecutors say undermine Mapes’s 2021 testimony that he didn’t know — or couldn’t recall — the work McClain did for Madigan.

In addition to serving as Madigan’s chief of staff, Mapes had also served as executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

McClain, charged in two separate indictments, was convicted at trial with three others earlier this year for a conspiracy to bribe Madigan to benefit ComEd. Next April, Madigan and McClain are set to stand trial on a separate indictment alleging a racketeering conspiracy.

But Madigan and McClain also loom large in Mapes’s case. Key witnesses from McClain’s first trial are set to return to the stand. Among them are state Rep. Robert “Bob” Rita, who has testified in two corruption trials already this year, and former Madigan aide Will Cousineau.

Michael McClain

Michael McClain, a longtime confidant to former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, walks into the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

Ashlee Rezin

This time, the backdrop will be a series of #MeToo scandals in 2018 that rocked Springfield and forced key players like Mapes out of office. It turns out the FBI was listening at the time, and prosecutors are poised to play several secret recordings made amid the fallout.

Some revolve around former state Rep. Lou Lang, who testified earlier this year about the events that led to his resignation. He is expected to return to court for Mapes’s trial. Another recorded call from April 2018 features Madigan, McClain, Mapes and others discussing whether to form a committee to investigate sexual harassment at the Capitol.

A prosecutor recently said in court that the call shows “Mapes was not telling the truth” when he told grand jurors he didn’t know about McClain’s work for Madigan.

Mapes’s lawyers declined to comment when contacted by the Chicago Sun-Times. They have argued in court that questions posed to him in the grand jury were vague. They’ve said his answers to others — “I don’t recall” — were “literally true.” And they’ve said they might try to summon to the witness stand the lead prosecutor in the Madigan investigation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu.

Bhachu helped question Mapes before the grand jury, his colleagues have said in court.

Prosecutors say Mapes’s claims are undercut by his close relationship with McClain and their frequent and often personal contact, especially when Mapes suddenly found himself in the political wilderness after a quarter century of service to Madigan.

Presiding over Mapes’s trial will be U.S. District Judge John Kness, a former federal prosecutor nominated by President Donald Trump in 2019 and confirmed in 2020, who also presided over the Madigan-related bribery case against ComEd. Kness dismissed the charge against ComEd last month as part of a three-year deal the utility struck with prosecutors.

ComEd storefront

A ComEd storefront.

‘I Don’t Recall’

Mapes’s grand jury testimony followed a Feb. 11, 2021, interview with prosecutors, and a later immunity order from U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer. The order made clear that Mapes’s grand jury testimony could only be used against him if he lied or otherwise failed to follow the order.

Mapes wound up testifying for hours before the grand jury March 31, 2021, fielding questions from two prosecutors who asked him more than 650 questions, records show. The perjury charge later leveled against him revolved around his answers to seven queries, all dealing with McClain’s work for Madigan:

• When asked if McClain had ever given him insight into his interactions with Madigan, Mapes said, “No, that wouldn’t — that wouldn’t happen.”

• When asked if McClain shared what he’d been discussing with Madigan or anything he was doing “on behalf” of Madigan around 2017, 2018 or 2019, Mapes said, “No.”

• When asked if Mapes knew whether McClain performed tasks or assignments for Madigan between 2017 and 2018, Mapes said, “I don’t recall any.”

• When asked if Mapes had reason to think McClain was acting as an agent for Madigan after McClain’s retirement in 2016, or whether McClain was doing any work for Madigan, Mapes said, “I’m not aware of any. I’m not aware of that activity. Let’s put it that way.”

• When asked if anyone ever described any work McClain had been doing for Madigan between 2017 and 2019, Mapes said, “I don’t recall that — that I would have been part of any of that dialogue. I don’t know why I would be.” When pressed for a yes or no answer, Mapes said, “No, I don’t recall any of that.”

• When asked if he was aware of any facts that would help prosecutors understand if McClain acted as an agent, performed work, or took direction from Madigan between 2017 and 2019, Mapes said, “I don’t know who you would go to other than [Madigan] and [McClain]. [Madigan], if he had people do things for him like I did things for him, was — didn’t distribute information freely.”

• When asked if he knew McClain to have acted as a messenger for Madigan between 2017 and 2021, or to have conveyed messages, Mapes said, “I’m not aware of any.”

To prove the perjury charge, prosecutors must show that Mapes testified falsely, that the testimony was relevant or “material” to the investigation, and that Mapes knew the testimony was false. But to prove the broader attempted obstruction of justice charge, the feds must also show that Mapes acted “corruptly.”

Mapes and McClain

Prosecutors say the recordings they plan to play for jurors reveal a “close friendship” between Mapes and McClain. They say the men even shared a “deeply personal” call on June 6, 2018, the day Madigan forced Mapes to resign.

McClain told Mapes on that call that “you’re the only person’s made me cry.”

Illinois state Rep. Lou Lang

Illinois state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, delivers a response to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address in the blue room at the Illinois state capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.

Ted Schurter

But one week earlier, it had been Lang who found himself at the center of harassment and intimidation allegations in Springfield. An activist made claims against the veteran lawmaker during a news conference May 31, 2018. The night before, the feds say they recorded four calls between Mapes and McClain.

McClain gave Mapes advice during one of those calls about how Lang should handle the situation, prosecutors say. In a short follow-up call, McClain also offered to share what he knew about what was going on.

“Let me put you on with the boss, OK?” Mapes allegedly replied.

Prosecutors say the first call shows that Mapes was “highly attuned to the drama surrounding [Lang] and McClain’s role in mitigating the fallout for Madigan.” The second “demonstrates as clear as day that Mapes knew McClain communicated with Madigan in 2018,” they’ve said.

They’ve also suggested that the discussion makes it “more likely” that Mapes was aware of a later episode in November 2018 that came up early in McClain’s first trial. McClain got on the phone with Lang that month, after another allegation surfaced, and he told Lang it was time to step down.

McClain claimed on that call to be an agent of Madigan’s — a notion Lang did not seem to doubt.

Separately, prosecutors say McClain referred in one of those May 2018 conversations with Mapes to an “assignment” he’d been given involving a property in Chinatown. That property later became part of the separate indictment against Madigan and McClain, set for trial next year.

The comment “shows that Mapes knew McClain did ‘assignments’ for Madigan in 2018,” according to the feds.

In another call on June 27, 2018 — following Mapes’s resignation — McClain allegedly told Mapes about a recent conversation he’d had with Madigan about how to reallocate work in the wake of Mapes’s departure. In another call on July 26, 2018, McClain allegedly told Mapes he was on an “assignment” that involved trying to determine if then-state Rep. Sam Yingling planned to vote for Madigan as speaker, records show.

By February 2019, the two men were caught discussing legislative committees in Springfield, which prosecutors say “demonstrates that Mapes knew McClain was doing work for Madigan.”

‘On an assignment to get Madigan a chicken sandwich’

Mapes’s lawyers — Andrew Porter, Katie Hill and Sarah Bakker — have sought to block many of the feds’ recordings. They said much of the content was irrelevant, and that the feds were trying to improperly expand on Mapes’s indictment.

Kness has said he’ll rule on the admissibility of specific recordings on a day-by-day basis once the trial is underway, though he gave the lawyers some general guidance during a recent pretrial hearing.

When it came to the conversations that Mapes and McClain had about Lang in May 2018, the defense attorneys have acknowledged that the men “clearly discussed politics.” They also wrote that “all Springfield politics in some way would have had an [effect] on Madigan as the speaker of the House of Representatives.”

“But Mapes was charged with lying about whether McClain did ‘tasks’ or ‘assignments’ for Madigan between 2017 and 2019,” they insisted. They wrote that nothing caught on tape at that time “establishes McClain doing any assignments for Madigan related to Lou Lang.”

McClain did make the comment about an “assignment” involving the Chinatown property, but the defense attorneys say Mapes did not reply beyond a simple “mm-hmm.”

As to McClain’s later comment about an “assignment” involving Yingling, Mapes’s attorneys said it had nothing to do with the investigation that landed Mapes in front of the grand jury.

McClain was using the term “flippantly,” they wrote.

And they said McClain might as well have been telling Mapes, “I’m on an assignment to get Madigan a chicken sandwich.”

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