Elusive aide to Madigan could be called to the witness stand in perjury trial of former chief of staff

A onetime aide to former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan — considered just as elusive as his ex-boss – could make his second trip this year to a witness stand Tuesday in the perjury trial of Madigan’s former chief of staff.

Will Cousineau first testified this year in the trial of longtime Madigan confidant Michael McClain and three others, who would later be convicted of a conspiracy to bribe the once-powerful Southwest Side Democrat.

Now Cousineau has been named as a witness to be called by the feds in the trial of Tim Mapes, and a prosecutor said he would testify Tuesday “in all likelihood.”

However, the feds have also acknowledged that Mapes’ trial is moving slower than anticipated.

Mapes served for two decades as Madigan’s chief of staff, until Madigan forced him to resign in June 2018 over bullying and harassment allegations. Mapes is now charged with perjury and attempted obstruction of justice for an alleged bid to block the feds’ aggressive pursuit of Madigan and McClain, who face criminal charges of their own.

Prosecutors say Mapes lied seven times in front of a grand jury March 31, 2021, about work that had been done for Madigan by McClain. Mapes’ attorneys insist he either didn’t know the answers to the questions he was being asked, or he couldn’t remember.

The feds have called eight witnesses so far in Mapes’ trial, and Cousineau is among several others still expected to take the stand. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane MacArthur signaled Cousineau’s nearing appearance Monday when discussing defense objections to an exhibit that could be part of his testimony. Mapes attorney Andrew Porter said the exhibit was a 2014 email that dealt with the legislative inspector general and allegations of favored hiring at Metra involving Madigan.

MacArthur explained that Mapes had gathered a small group of insiders to discuss the issue so it could be brought to Madigan’s attention. McClain had been part of the small group, she said. 

U.S. District Judge John Kness said he’d allow the exhibit into the trial after MacArthur said she would avoid getting too deep into the details of the hiring controversy.

Cousineau also took the stand in March during McClain’s trial, having secured immunity from prosecutors who made clear he was not a target of the investigation. 

During that appearance, prosecutors played a recording the FBI had made of aDecember 2018 call in which Madigan could be heard soliciting strategic advice about who should serve on his upcoming leadership team in the Illinois General Assembly.

“I understand we have a lot of people walking around trying to find things to complain about,” Madigan could be heard saying in the Dec. 9, 2018, chat with his inner circle. 

“Every once in a while, the speaker gets to do what he wants to do,” Madigan said. 

Only McClain piped up to offer Madigan advice, suggesting the speaker could develop committees with strong chairs who could withstand political attacks. Unfavorable bills could then be sent to those committees to die, McClain suggested.

That call took place after Mapes resigned as Madigan’s chief of staff. However, the feds say Mapes remained in close contact with McClain into 2019.

McClain, in addition to his conviction earlier this year, faces trial in April with Madigan. Both men are charged in that separate case with a racketeering conspiracy.

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