(The Center Square)
Lawyers representing four people charged in a federal corruption and conspiracy case involving Illinois’ largest utility company are worried about a political science professor.
They fear that expert witness explanations of the workings of Chicago’s political machine will make their clients look guilty in front of a jury in an upcoming trial.
Federal prosecutors want University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Emeritus Dick Simpson to explain Chicago’s neighborhood system, “including the workings of the political machine as it operates through neighborhood political organizations, including ward committee member, precinct captains and patronage hiring”. Prosecutors said in a motion that Simpson’s testimony would be “closely tailored” to “matters relevant to the trial and likely to be unknown to the jury.”
Defense attorneys said Simpson’s testimony was irrelevant.
“Professor Simpson’s unreliable, irrelevant, cumulative and prejudicial testimony is a transparent attempt to paint the four defendants with the broad brush of Chicago political corruption,” the attorneys wrote in a motion to exclude Simpson’s testimony. of the trial.
Prosecutors argue this is necessary context for a case involving former politicians, a former utility executive and lobbyists with ties to former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan long considered the most powerful politician in the state because he controlled both the lower legislative chamber and served as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party for many years.
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Prosecutors accused former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker, former ComEd consultant Jay Doherty and former Madigan lobbyist and confidant Michael McClain for conspiracy to bribe, bribe and willfully falsify books and records of ComEd in November 2020. All have pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
Simpson, who earned a Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University, has been on the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago since 1967. He has a 28-page resume. Prosecutors said he was “Chicago’s foremost expert on politics and government.” He has written extensively in books and scholarly journals on politics, with an emphasis on Chicago politics. He also served as an alderman of Chicago for eight years from 1971 to 1979. Prosecutors also noted that Simpson served as an expert witness in other trials, including a case involving fake political candidates in the old district of Madigan. Simpson declined to comment because he is an expert witness in the case.
Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois, said prosecutors want to be able to explain to a jury how the political system is supposed to work.
“You want someone who has a sense of what’s reasonable in terms of how the process is supposed to work,” he said. “And where is the line in terms of when you go from the need for compromise and finding consensus to when you go to things that you would recognize as bribes, extortion, of fraud… that go beyond the normal concessions of politics.”
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Redfield said defense attorneys are concerned about how the jury might take that explanation, particularly if jurors have preconceived ideas about Chicago politics.
“If you have a jury that already believes that politics is corrupt in Illinois and politics is especially corrupt in Chicago – Chicago politicians are sort of the prime example of that – then (the defense is) concerned “, did he declare. “How can my client benefit from a fair trial? »
Prosecutors, in response to the defense’s motion to exclude Simpson, wrote that Simpson’s “testimony will provide critical context to the evidence in this case.”
A judge is expected to rule on the motion before the April trial.
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.