Sean Shecter, Steven Lee Speak with Law360 About High-Profile ComEd Bribery Trial
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Atlanta, Ga. (March 14, 2023) – Fort Lauderdale Partner Sean Shecter and Atlanta Partner Steven Lee recently spoke with Law360 for an article regarding the upcoming trial of the former Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) executives who have been charged with bribing ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
As the article titled “ComEd Exec's Trial A Test Of Prosecutors' Bribery Strategy” describes, the ComEd trial, which is expected to last two months, is “the most high-profile corruption case to go before a jury since ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted in 2011 of attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by former President Barack Obama. . . .”
Mr. Shecter told Law360 that because prosecutors have discretion in what cases they bring, a case as high-profile as this makes a win imperative. He explained, "If you lose because of something unforeseen, it's on you." Likewise, Mr. Lee noted that by the time the trial begins, the government will have reviewed every communication and piece of evidence in great detail to give a tight, clear presentation to the jury. "The main part of the prosecutors' job is to tell a story," he described.
In commenting on the charges against the defendants, Mr. Lee noted that it was no coincidence they were charged with conspiracy in addition to bribery. Citing a circuit split on the interpretation of the bribery statute, Mr. Lee noted, "Conspiracy is easier to show." He further explained that when proving bribery, prosecutors must establish that the alleged quid pro quo influenced an official act. There can be alternative explanations for the acts in question, he explained, which makes the requirements for proving bribery more complex. Mr. Lee explained, "It's, 'You weren't doing something in your official capacity for money, you would have done the act anyway.'" Mr. Lee also told Law360 that he anticipated that the case would turn on the testimony of co-conspirators.
In addition, Mr. Shecter emphasized the importance of the government packaging a succinct case for the jurors, noting, "Do the prosecutors here keep this simple and to the point so that the jury is comfortable convicting? As defense counsel, you try to muck it up." He added, "The charges, what the jury instruction will be, all of that adds complexity. But at its core, this is a simple story."
Mr. Shecter and Mr. Lee serve as co-chairs of Lewis Brisbois’ Government Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice. As former federal prosecutors with extensive experience first-chairing trials, they focus on government and internal corporate investigations and complex litigation matters. They are frequently called on to provide commentary on breaking legal events, including the DOJ's increased use of the RICO Act, and the recent collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and cryptocurrency exchange FTX, the latter of which they also reviewed in an Expert Analysis for Law360.
Read the full Law360 article here (subscription may be required).