Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a nine-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.
— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)
This afternoon will see some snow, possibly mixed with rain, and a high near 39 degrees. Expect some snow tonight with a low near 31 and accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible. Tomorrow will be cloudy with a high near 35.
It’s been more than two years since former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was driven from office by the federal indictment of four power players who are accused of trying to bribe the powerful politician to benefit ComEd.
Now, the judge presiding over the upcoming trial of the four has ruled that secret recordings forming the backbone of the feds’ case will not be widely released to the public once they are admitted at trial. Such release is standard practice in Chicago’s federal court. Rather, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber sided with Patrick Cotter, a defense attorney for Madigan confidant Michael McClain, who said he was concerned about jurors hearing “whatever the media considers to be the greatest hits” outside the courtroom.
Madigan is among those recorded on the tapes that could be played at trial.
Cotter made his comment in response to an inquiry during a pretrial conference by prosecutors, who predicted today they would be fielding requests from the media for the recordings and other exhibits. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker said the feds’ concern was “simply the First Amendment right of the press to have access to those exhibits.”
Jurors are routinely told not to read or listen to news reports about the trials in which they are called to serve. Still, Cotter argued that “the First Amendment will be completely respected” if journalists are allowed to cover the trial, hear the tapes in open court and report on their contents.
Leinenweber agreed with Cotter, adding that the release of the recordings would “sensationalize the trial more than we want.” The judge said transcripts of the recordings could be released — though much of what is said in the recordings has previously been divulged.
The feds’ years-long investigation of Madigan and his allies has had significant ramifications for Illinois government. Madigan was forced in 2021 to end his record-setting tenure as Illinois House speaker two months after the indictment triggering the upcoming trial.
In the defendants’ chairs will be McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty.
The four were indicted in November 2020 and accused of a nearly decade-long scheme to sway Madigan by landing his associates jobs, contracts and money while legislation crucial to ComEd’s bottom line moved through Springfield.
More news you need
- Slain Chicago police officer Andrés Mauricio Vásquez Lasso was remembered today as a “man with a big heart” who was “humble and happy” as he worked for “justice and community.” Those words were spoken by his commander, Bryan Spreyne, who told the crowd attending St. Rita of Cascia Church for Vásquez Lasso’s funeral that “the heartache of your loss is shared across the city.” Vásquez Lasso was fatally shot a week ago while chasing a suspect. Our David Struett and Tom Schuba have more from Vásquez Lasso’s funeral here.
- Former 11th Ward Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, appearing at a panel hearing concerning the status of his license to practice law, offered a glimpse of his life behind bars during four months at Wisconsin’s Oxford federal prison. “It was horrible, absolutely horrible,” he said. Our Robert Herguth and Tim Novak have more on Thompson’s account here.
- The trial of a former aide to Ald. James Gardiner on charges he allegedly tried to sell a machine gun to an undercover ATF agent while on the clock for the city is unlikely to take place before the April 4 runoff election. Charles Sikanich’s next court date is March 30, when a new trial date will be assigned.
- After hearing emotional testimony from Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, an Illinois House committee unanimously approved legislation today that would grant Chicago cops and firefighters full benefits if they become disabled from COVID-19. Mendoza choked up telling a House panel how her brother, a Chicago cop, was left disabled by COVID but denied full disability benefits.
- Social media has been buzzing with talk about some of Chicago’s biggest city-sponsored summer music festivals not happening due to the recent controversy over Grant Park’s “shutdown” to accommodate NASCAR and Lollapalooza dates. But today, the city confirmed to the Sun-Times that both the blues and jazz festivals, along with a slate of other city-sponsored festivals will be taking place this summer. Our Miriam Di Nunzio clears up the misinformation here.
- This weekend, the city will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day early, starting with the dyeing of the river on Saturday, followed by the downtown parade that afternoon and then the South Side parade on Sunday. Our Katie Anthony breaks down what you need to know ahead of the festivities here.
Runoff face-off: Johnson casts Vallas as ally of ‘right-wing extremists’ — but Vallas dubs attacks ‘nonsense, again’
Brandon Johnson came out swinging yesterday, accusing Paul Vallas of being a front man for “right-wing extremists” who was preparing for an avalanche of property tax increases with the “accounting gimmicks” and pension fund raids from Vallas’ days running Chicago Public Schools.
With less than four weeks to go until the April 4 election, Johnson, who finished second with 21.6% of the vote last week to Vallas’ 33%, was clearly playing offense in their first televised debate of the mayoral runoff campaign. The Cook County commissioner consistently put Vallas on the defensive, particularly on financial issues that Vallas views as his forte.
“We’re in this predicament because of the bad accounting measures of Mr. Vallas … $2.5 billion in property tax increases because of the budgetary schemes of Paul Vallas. That’s why we are in this structural deficit right now,” Johnson said of CPS’s financial picture.
“Paul Vallas worked with the Republican Party in 1995 to take the dollars that were dedicated to pensions, people’s retirement, and moved it out, did not pay pensions and, as a result in 2017, several years later, we were on the hook for $2.5 billion in property tax” increases.
Vallas dismissed the financial broadside as “nonsense” and a fictionalized account of his six-year tenure as CEO at CPS.
A bright one
Whales gather in the warm waters off the Dominican Republic each year. The artist who goes by Eddaviel is from the Carribean nation and says he has seen them, though not up close.
He offers his take on the huge creatures in vibrant detail in a mural showing two whales amid swirling waters that he painted at a Lake Barrington business that sells water-purification systems.
“I love whales,” says Eddaviel, whose real name is Edison Montero and who spends part of each year in his home country and the rest in Fox River Grove not far from Lake Barrington. “They are beautiful.”
In the mural, he says “you have a whale in the night with a moon” and “a whale with the sun.”
The imagery of blue whales and blue waters melds at one point into a sort of infinity symbol.
Eddaviel describes the painting as “an exploration of the duality of life, the day and night, how everything is connected, explore the water and how life is connected to water, how we are water.”
From the press box
- Bulls guard Lonzo Ball, who has been out for over a year, may be required to undergo a third knee surgery that would keep him sidelined for an additional six months, Joe Cowley reports.
- The Illinois high school boys basketball state finals go down this weekend in Champaign. Check out our previews for Simeon, East St. Louis, Metamora and St. Ignatius in Class 3A and Benet, New Trier, Moline and Downers Grove North in Class 4A.
Your daily question☕
Citywide, what do you think is Chicago’s biggest holiday? Tell us why.
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
Yesterday, we asked you: What do you think of the mayor’s plan to have Taste of Chicago near Navy Pier?
Here’s what some of you said...
“It’d be a real shame to shortchange or even lose an event that showcases so many family-owned local businesses at the expense of a very pollutive sport that has no history with or connection to the City. Festivals are part of the #summertimechi vibe, after all.” — Carolyn Dorant
“I think it could make things too congested at Navy Pier BUT could provide more business for it too.” — Jackie Waldhier
“It really should be scheduled differently. Before or after or maybe later on in August. Too much at one time could result in more problems than this city can handle!” — Debbie Christensen
“I’m hopping mad about it and the whole racing extravaganza and other ways the public parks are being hijacked by the city for closed events while we the pay over the top taxes to be able to NOT have access to them!” — Janis McGowan
“If we’re going to do that, why not go all the way and bring back ChicagoFest?” — bill MCormick
“Terrible idea. But the worst idea was having the NASCAR race here in the first place. Cancel the NASCAR race and hold Taste where it belongs, on Columbus Drive. But now, July 4 weekend will be a great time to LEAVE TOWN. Go visit some friend or relative you’ve been meaning to visit, and watch their town’s fireworks. Thank you, dearly departing Mayor Lori Lightfoot, for creating this messy train wreck.” — Roger Deschner
“No. It’s already enough going on at Navy Pier! Don’t overwhelm them with more!” — Shonette Bender-Madison
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