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Timothy Mapes

Timothy Mapes walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after being sentenced, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. On Tuesday, character letters sent to the judge in his case were made public, revealing that political insiders and powerbrokers advocated on his behalf.

Anthony Vazquez

Powerbrokers and political insiders asked judge to go easy on convicted top aide to Michael Madigan

A former Illinois Supreme Court chief justice, a retired congressman, the sister of a convicted Springfield powerbroker and an array of other political insiders sought leniency for the convicted top aide of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

By the dozens, friends, colleagues and family members of Timothy Mapes wrote stirring character letters on his behalf, urging a federal judge to impose a light sentence on the once-powerful state bureaucrat convicted of lying to a federal grand jury.

Mapes was regarded as an important cog in the federal government’s long-running investigation into alleged corruption involving Madigan, who is facing a racketeering, bribery and conspiracy trial in October.

Mapes had been granted immunity by federal investigators but a jury found he still tried to stymie the feds’ intensive probe of Madigan with his grand jury testimony.

The Mapes character letters, made public for the first time in federal court records Tuesday, were reviewed by U.S. District Judge John Kness, who told Mapes during his sentencing that he had “zero hesitation in agreeing, wholeheartedly, that you are a good man.”

Last month, the judge imposed a 2-½ year sentence on Mapes, less than the 51 to 63 months in prison that federal prosecutors recommended.

Among those seeking a light sentence for Mapes was former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride.

“Although I have not been privy to the full trial story, and my view is limited to my reading of newspaper articles, Tim’s misdeeds appear to be his first offense and to have had minimal impact on the investigation,” Kilbride wrote.

“I humbly hope that you will consider my insights into Tim’s many fine qualities and my belief that he is a good man when you craft a sentence proportionate to the impact of his misdeeds,” Kilbride concluded.

State Auditor General Frank Mautino, a onetime state lawmaker and member of Madigan’s leadership team, praised Mapes’s “dedication to his work and devotion to his family.”

“I ask that you consider his good deeds and show mercy,” Mautino wrote.

Another ex-legislator urging Kness to show compassion to Mapes was former House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago.

“In my years working with Tim, I never had reason to question his honesty or his integrity,” she wrote. “I am hopeful you will take into account Tim’s years of meritorious service and the good he has done.”

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello also went to bat for Mapes.

Costello asked Kness to “take into consideration all the positive things that Tim Mapes has done during his career in public service that has (sic) improved the lives of the people of Illinois.”

One of the state’s most powerful labor leaders was another champion for Mapes’s integrity.

Timothy Drea, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, noted that Mapes hired his brother-in-law to build his home and hired Drea’s nephew and niece to House staff positions.

“Tim Mapes is a good man who assisted my family in many ways and never asked for anything in return,” Drea said.

Another Mapes defender was the sister of longtime Springfield powerbroker William Cellini, who spent time in federal prison after being convicted of an extortion scheme tied to raising campaign funds for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“This letter was hard to write,” Janis Cellini wrote. “I’m not sure I have the correct words to convince you that this man (who worked his entire life to accomplish things which he believed to be good for many) should be given a break on his sentencing.”

Other letters came from other key aides to Madigan, including longtime spokesman Steve Brown, who appeared to minimize Mapes’s wrongdoing.

“While I have no personal knowledge of the legal strategy or theories employed by Tim and his legal counsels I find it beyond the scope [of] my human experiences that there is any benefit to be gained by inflicting a harsh punishment on a person because [he] misstated or failed to recall conversation (sic) or events that happened years ago and pertained to events and topics that did not involve the commission of [a] crime,” Brown wrote in a typo-laden passage of his letter.

Significant typos in Brown’s letter involved the spelling of the judge’s last name. Twice, Brown spelled Judge Kness’ name “Knees.”

State Appellate Justice David Ellis, a former top lawyer to House Democrats under Madigan, sang Mapes’s praises as well.

“I know you have many factors to consider. I only hope you will include in your consideration his family; his personal kindness and compassion; and the decades of hard work he performed for the Speaker and the benefit of the state of Illinois,” wrote Ellis, who testified as a defense witness in last year’s bribery trial of four former Commonwealth Edison executives and lobbyists.

Under terms of his sentencing, Mapes has to turn himself in to the federal Bureau of Prisons in mid-June.

The state retirement system overseeing Mapes’s $154,000-plus annual pension suspended that retirement benefit last Friday as a result of his sentencing and has requested Democratic state Attorney General Kwame Raoul to recommend whether Mapes’s pension should be revoked permanently.

Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics for WBEZ and was the longtime Springfield bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. Jon Seidel, who covers federal courts for the Sun-Times, contributed to this report.

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