BY MIKE LAWRENCE
Springfield correspondent for the Quad-City Times, he represented the Times in his
coverage of the cement bribery trial.
He is a graduate of Knox College,
IT WAS SPRING. The cleansing rains had arrived, and there was a fresh green face on the landscape; it was a time of renewal when lofty ideals for mankind were proclaimed at high school and college commencements. But this was a special spring for members of the Illinois General Assembly and, in a real sense, for all the people of Illinois. In a Chicago courtroom, a team of young federal prosecutors, not far removed from the ringing idealism of commencement speeches, was engaged in what it came to regard as a cleansing crusade, the elimination of what its captain branded "the stench of corruption in the Illinois General Assembly."
Even as the legislature met in Springfield for the annual spring-summer session, taking actions that would reach into the daily lives of citizens from Chicago to Cairo, six current or former members of that body were huddled for more than two months at the defense table in Chicago facing charges they had sold their votes and their honor. Specifically, the six were charged with taking bribes from the cement industry in 1972 for support of a bill to increase the load limit for ready-mix trucks on Illinois roads.
The tabloid newspapers of the twenties could not have invented a more sensational trial — a trial of two prosecutions, a trial which elicited the outrage of both the government and the defendants, a trial laced with ominous constitutional considerations and charges of "bugging" and betrayal, a trial of shocking revelations that tarnished the reputations of a silk-stocking Chicago millionaire and more than 20 non-defendant legislators, who waited helplessly 200 miles away in Springfield while their names were cited again and again in testimony concerning sordid dealings.
This, too, was a trial of James Thompson's justice. The former U.S. attorney, who at the time of the trial was the Republican gubernatorial candidate, made wide use of immunity in overseeing the development of what became known as the "cement bill" case, or more formally, the United Stales of America v. Craig et al. The use of immunity brought charges against Thompson from a battery of defense lawyers, among the cream of the Chicago bar, that he had crumbled before the elite and the wealthy, spared them severe punishment and then, in an indiscriminate search for scapegoats, lassoed innocent men.
A charged atmosphere
The federal prosecutors, assisted by men who had admitted their roles in the bribery scheme, unleashed a hard-hitting and surgically incisive assault on the eight defendants — former Sen. Jack E. Walker (R., Lansing), a one time House speaker; ex-Rep. Frank P. North (R., Rockford); Reps. John F. Wall and Louis F. Capuzi (both R., Chicago); and Rep. Robert Craig (D., Danville); Sen. Kenneth W. Course (D., Chicago);
Peter V. Pappas* of Lake Bluff, a lawyer-lobbyist depicted as the "middleman" between the cement industry and for-hire legislators; and Francis P. Sheahen, a Highland Park cement executive accused of participating in the funding of a bribe kitty. The industry, the government said, had decided it had to buy what it needed from legislators. The legislators, the prosecution contended, were willing sellers and shared in an eventual $30,000 payoff.
Defense lawyers, however, talked of another conspiracy, a kind of counterconspiracy by the government and those it ultimately clasped to its bosom as prosecution witnesses. Yes, there was a bribery scheme, the defense acknowledged. But the government, too lazy to investigate and in fealty to certain elite interests, had granted immunity from prosecution to several of the real culprits and made deals with others. The government, so the countercharge went, had eagerly bought false stories concocted by the true villains in the 'scheme.
This was the charged atmosphere in which men who had held or were still custodians of high public office and the public trust in Illinois paraded to the witness chair on the 21st floor of the federal courthouse in Chicago to tell their stories, in which onetime members of the "club" in Springfield delivered stinging, damaging testimony against others, in which secretly taped conversations between formerly close friends were played before a stone-faced but intent jury in a hushed courtroom.
Even prior to the trial there were moments of high drama. In a tense pretrial hearing on whether conversations recorded by former Rep. Pete Pappas* (R., Rock Island), and ex-Sen. Donald D. Carpentier (R., East Moline), should be allowed as evidence, the crossfire of recriminations which characterized the trial was accurately and unmistakably foreshadowed.
Pappas, identified by the government as the ringleader of the bribe-hungry legislators, became a prosecution witness shortly after learning investigators were on his trail. He struck a bargain, selling his incriminating testimony in exchange for a no-jail, no-fine guilty plea to a tax charge. It was a good deal, negotiated by his shrewd lawyer, Stewart Winstein of Rock Island, but it was a pact that caused Pappas, 48, who was
|* Lawyer-lobbyist Peter V. Pappas of Lake Bluff is no relation to former Rep. Pete Pappas" (R., Rock Island). Lobbyist Pappas was a defendant and Legislator Pappas was a government witness.|
6/ December 1976/ Illinois Issues
The prosecution charged
legislators had taken bribes
to increase the weight limit
of ready-mix cement trucks.
The defense said the real
culprits got immunity
one of the clubbiest of the "club" in Springfield, to betray those he loved and who loved him. For the normally nonchalant Pappas, who brought a deep tan with him to the courtroom, the trial was an. ordeal.
William Nellis, ex-Rep. North's lawyer, asked Pappas at the pretrial hearing whether it was "personally. distasteful" for him, at the behest of government probers, to wire his office telephone in Rock Island for a conversation with North.
"Yes, sir," Pappas replied in subdued tones.
"Would you even say he was like a brother?" the lawyer asked.
"Yes, sir," Pappas said. "Did you have a conversation with Pat North ... in which you told him he was like a brother?" the lawyer persisted.
"Quite possibly so," Pappas said, bowing his head and evading the gaze from the deep-set eyes of his former buddy North, who had come to the General Assembly in 1967 and become fast friends with Pappas, another newcomer.
Stinging testimony from old pals
Former Sen. Carpentier's burden was even heavier. The great Illinois political name he carried as the adopted son of the late Secretary of State Charles F. Carpentier, a man he loved and revered, had been tarnished by the testimony and tapes provided by his trusted friend and former Springfield roommate, Pappas. The once arrogant and high-handed Carpentier, 45, was a near-broken man in the courtroom. He had become a government witness only after being implicated by Pappas, had pleaded guilty to a charge in connection with the case and was now reluctantly testifying against his one-time pals without any assurance that he himself would not end up behind bars in a federal penitentiary.
Carpentier was asked at one point during the pretrial hearing about his reaction when asked to wear a body recorder in a conversation with Course, his former Senate colleague.
"Did you want to do this?" a defense lawyer asked.
"I consented to do it," Carpentier replied.
"Did you want to do this?" he was asked again.
"I consented to do this," Carpentier repeated.
"Did you want to do this?" the lawyer persisted.
"I was asked by the government to do this. I entered an agreement with the government, and I thought I was fulfilling my duty," Carpentier said.
Before the trial began, legislator Pappas and his lawyer had expressed fears for his personal safety and that of his family. This was revealed when plea bargaining materials were unsealed in January 1975. Included was a letter from government prosecutors to lawyer Winstein: "We understand," they wrote, "your concern that because Mr. Pappas will be providing information concerning various legislators and their relationship with members of the organized crime syndicate in Chicago, his incarceration and full cooperation represents a serious threat to him and his family in the area of serious bodily harm. We believe your client's fears are well- founded."
If Pappas had misgivings about becoming a government informer, however, they did not inhibit the well- to-do Rock Island businessman and entrepreneur from weaving a spell-binding narrative of corruption carried out almost matter-of-factly at the citadel of Illinois government. Pappas, named as "Outstanding Young Man" by the Rock Island Jaycees in 1961 and a traveler in high society circles in the Quad-Cities, said he first learned there was money to be made on the "cement bill" from his friend, lawyer-lobbyist Pappas, who had been legislative liaison officer for several secretaries of state, including the late Paul Powell. Rock Island's Pappas said the lobbyist, no relation to him, told him in the fall of 1971 during a conversation under the rotunda near the House chambers in the Capitol that "he could get us some money for passage of weight relief legislation."
Rep, Robert Craig (D., Danville), guilty; 3-year sentence, $5,000 fine. Also charged in another case yet to go to trial.
Sen. Kenneth W. Course (D., Chicago), charged in the main indictment and in another for perjury, guilty; 3-year sentence, $5,000 fine. Former Rep. Frank P. (Pat) North (R.., Rockford), a onetime Rockford alderman who served four terms in the legislature, guilty; 3-year sentence, $5,000 fine.
Peter V. Pappas of Lake Bluff, a lawyer-lobbyist, depicted as the "middleman" in the scheme; guilty; 5-year sentence, $10,000 fine. Not to be confused with former Rep. Pete Pappas.
Francis P. Sheahen of Highland Park, a cement industry executive, innocent.
Former Sen. Jack E. Walker (R., Lansing), a onetime House speaker, guilty; 3-year sentence, $5,000 fine.
Rep. John F. Wall (R., Chicago), innocent, but facing an extortion charge in another case.
Harry Busch (Capuzi)
Anna Lavin and Edward Caliban (Craig)
James Coghlan (Course)
William Nellis (North)
Sherman Magidson (Peter V. Pappas)
Robert Weber (Sheahen)
William Barnett (Walker)
Tom Hett (Wall)
Sen. Robert W. Mitchler (R., Oswego)
Sen. Howard R. Mohr (R., Forest Park)
Sen. Stanley B. Weaver (R., Urbana)
Mrs. Mary Pappas, wife of Peter V. Pappas
Mrs. Pearl Walker, wife of former Sen. Jack
Former Sen. Donald D. Carpentier(R., East Moline), conspirator who became a government informer and pleaded guilty; 3-year sentence, $5,000 fine.
Lester Crown, Chicago, millionaire president of Material Service Corp. who was granted immunity but is an admitted briber. Rep. Bernard E. Epton (R., Chicago), who said Rep. Capuzi told him he had received $200 from legislator Pete Pappas.
Former Rep. Pete Pappas (R., Rock Island), a chief conspirator who became a government informer and pleaded guilty; got probation.
Dan Webb, chief prosecutor
Stewart Winstein (Rep. Pappas)
Albert E. Jenner, Jr., attorney for Lester Crown and an architect of the package immunity deal for Crown and company, also former minority counsel in the Senate Watergate Hearings.
December 1976 / Illinois Issues/7
Price to pass the bill
was $10,000 for each side
of the aisle in both
chambers, a total of
$40,000 to be paid
after final passage
"He asked me how much it would take. I told him I didn't know, but I would get back to him," the former legislator testified.
Legislator Pappas was then chairman of the Motor Vehicle Laws Commission, the unit that would initially consider the weight relief legislation for the cement industry and whose endorsement would provide clout for the measure as it moved through the General Assembly. He said he contacted Carpentier "probably" in the Senate chamber and advised him there could be money on the "cement bill." The two of them were hesitant to set a price, Pappas testified. That was done, he said, by a third commission member, Rep. Robert Craig of Danville.
At a meeting under the rotunda somewhere between the House and Senate chambers, according to Pappas' testimony, Craig said he would need $10,000 "for his side(House Democrats)," and the money "would have to be paid as the bill passed each house." Pappas said it was then decided that $10,000 each would be required for the Democrat and Republican sides in both chambers — or a payoff total of $40,000.
Pappas said he then stated, "Donny [Carpentier], if you're going to handle your side of the Senate, and, Bob [Craig], if you're going to handle your side of the House, and, if I'm going to handle the Republican side of the House, we need a Democratic senator to handle that side of the Senate." Course's name was mentioned, Pappas said, and the Rock Island legislator contacted the Chicagoan "at his desk" on the Senate floor.
"I said, 'Kenny, there's going to be some money on a cement bill. I want to know if you'd be interested,'" Pappas testified.
He then quoted Course as replying, "Whatever you guys decide is fine with me." Pappas testified he subsequently contacted Reps. North, Capuzi and Wall to inform them he had "something going" on the cement bill and would appreciate their help. He said all responded affirmatively, and Wall said he "had seven," presumably legislators, who would join in the effort. But the scheme was not without its snarls,
Pappas testified. He said the industry balked at the suggestion that House members should be paid off when the measure cleared that chamber. It wanted no payoff until the bill had become law, passed by both chambers and signed by Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie. A compromise was reached, Pappas said, whereby payment would be made after approval by the General Assembly but regardless of gubernatorial action.
Even then, Pappas said, the industry was apparently preparing to welsh on the deal in the summer of 1972, when Ogilvie vetoed the bill after it cleared the Senate by the barest of margins. He said he laid it on the line, however, to Morris Lauwereins, a vice president of the giant Material Service Corp. in the Chicago area. Pappas said he warned the cement executive: "You guys may be looking for support next [legislative] session. Unless you guys take care of your commitments, there is no way anyone will support you in the future."
Dividing the loot
With that, Pappas said, $20,000 was released for legislators with an additional $10,000 for others in the scheme. He said he received $10,000 in $100 bills from lawyer-lobbyist Pappas in the front seat of a car parked at "The Coffeehouse," just off Interstate 80 near Marseilles, 111. Legislator Pappas said the lobbyist told him he had given $5,000 to Sen. Course and was bringing $5,000 more to Rep. Craig in Springfield. Legislator Pappas said he then gave 10 of the bills to Rep. North in the parking lot and turned over $5,000 to Sen. Carpentier as the two of them drove along Interstate 80 after the meeting. Pappas, who ended Up pocketing about $2,900 in the deal, said he eventually gave $200 to Rep. Capuzi in a handshake at the Conrad Hilton in Chicago and $700 to Rep. Wall at the rear of the House chambers.
He said he saw Capuzi at the annual dinner of the Central Motor Freight Association at the Hilton and "went to the men's room and took two $10 bill out of my money clip and moved it (the money] up into my coat pocket " When he returned, he said, he saw Capuzi leaving a group of people. "I said 'Lou I've got something for you' and 'shook hands with him and left the $200 in his hand," Pappas testified.
The testimony of Carpentier who apparently garnered $3,700 in the scheme, generally supported that of Pappas, the chief government witness but the former East Moline senator with the once magic political name added some excitement of his own. He said he had distributed $1,300 of payoff money to nine other Republican senators —a revelation that prompted shudders in Springfield because Jack Walker had been the only G.O.P. senator indicted What was the situation? Were other indictments yet to come?
Dan Webb, captain of the prosecution team, further dramatized the disclosure when he said "this matter [investigation of the cement bill scandal] is not completely over" as far as a federal grand jury is concerned. But subsequent indications were that chances for more indictments — based on Carpentier's testimony and later statements by Course concerning 15 Democratic senators, including Senate President Cecil A. Partee (D., Chicago) — were slim. Denials of receipt of money flew throughout the Statehouse after the testimony of Carpentier and Course. And even those who acknowledged receipt of funds from one of them said they accepted the cash as legitimate campaign contributions.
At any rate, the most damaging testimony by Carpentier was inflicted on former Sen. Jack Walker. Carpentier said he asked Walker to handle the cement bill on the Senate floor after it was approved by the House and told Walker there would be "help in the district" during the next campaign. Carpentier said he mentioned the $500 figure to his colleague and subsequently mailed five $100 bills to Walker's home.
Over the strenuous objections of defense lawyers, tape recordings were played to prop up the testimony of legislator Pappas and Carpentier. The tapes of conversations involving eventual defendants were made after the government began putting heat on suspects in the bribery scheme. Defense lawyers bristled when the Jurors were
8/ December 1976/ Illinois Issues
Indeed, those tapes may play a significant role in appeal proceedings, but it became clear, as the trial continued why the government fought so hard to get them to the jury. Sen. Kenneth Course, for example, had told a federal grand jury in 1974 that he had received no money in connection with the cement bill But, in a taped conversation with legislator Pappas on the Senate floor in which there was discussion of a $5,000 contribution from Course to lawyer- lobbyist Pappas for a "legal defense fund," Course said, "He [the lobbyist] wants $5,000? Jesus Christ! I wind up with $700 on this whole goddamned deal."
Rep. Robert Craig, who stood on a constitutional point that legislators' actions on bills were not subject to scrutiny and offered no other major defense, was quoted in the transcripts of a conversation with legislator Pappas as saying, "I got four," which the government said meant $4,000 in the context of that conversation. In still another recorded conversation, the lobbyist Pappas appeared to be coaching the legislator Pappas and Course on what to say in upcoming grand jury appearances. "As long as the answers you give are consistent with the answers I give, no problem," the lobbyist told the legislators.
Sen. Walker, in one taped telephone conversation with Carpentier, initially said he did not recall receiving any money from Carpentier. But, when Carpentier called him back later and said he had sent him $500 on "this stuff," Walker replied, "Cash or what?" "Cash," Carpentier said.
"You sent me a campaign contribution, right?" Walker said. "I sent you $500," Carpentier said.
Walker later repeated, "That was a campaign contribution, right?"
Carpentier said, "Well, I don't know how to put it."
"The way I put it," Walker replied, was that I didn't know anything about "Goddammit," Walker said at another point, "did we discuss it after-ward [after the money allegedly was sent]?"
Carpentier reiterated that he sent Walker the money. "If you say you did, I know you did, goddammit," Walker said.
Competing with legislators Pappas and Carpentier for star billing among government witnesses was Harvard- educated Lester Crown, scion of one of America's wealthiest families and a confessed briber. With himself, his corporate management team and the corporation. Material Service Corp., protected by an umbrella of immunity, the proud, broad-shouldered, flawlessly groomed millionaire of about 50 told of how he pulled thousands of dollars from his personal office safe in full awareness that the funds were earmarked for politicians on the take. He also conceded that top officials in his company submitted phony expense vouchers and turned over the cash to replenish his personal accounts.
Attacks on Crown's testimony
Crown, son of a onetime owner of the Empire State Building, said he had frequently made political contributions but not under the conditions prevailing when he tapped his safe for $8,000 and $15,000 installments in 1972. He said he had not previously contributed on a "quid pro quo" basis involving a particular piece of legislation, nor had there been a condition that the money would be returned if the legislation were not enacted into law — an impression apparently given to the cement industry by "middlemen" in the scheme. Crown also said he had never, prior to his payments on the cement bill, replenished his personal funds with company money gathered by having other company officers submit bloated expense vouchers.
"Your understanding and assumption was that the money to be issued was to be given to members of the General Assembly, wasn't it?" chief prosecutor Webb asked.
"Yes, sir," Crown replied. Webb also asked, "You knew . . . that payment of bribes from private industry to the General Assembly was illegal, didn't you?"
Again, an affirmative response. In reply to a question from a defense lawyer. Crown said, "There was no question that in the way he [another company official] told me about the $8,000 [which Crown took from his safe in June] that it was going to be used to pay members of the Illinois legislature."
As if Crown's account of shabby dealings in the executive suites of a major corporation did not raise enough eyebrows, Crown's lawyer added a dash of surprise himself. Albert E. Jenner, Jr., the prestigious Chicago lawyer who had served as minority counsel in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's impeachment proceedings concerning President Nixon and whose law firm had negotiated the package immunity deal for Crown and company, startled both prosecution and defense lawyers by rising from his front-row seat in the spectators' section to object to a question posed to his client. This sent lawyers and Judge George Leighton scurrying into a huddle on the novel move. It was determined that Jenner had a right to object to questions that might impinge upon the confidentiality of lawyer-client relationships and he could do so from his ringside seat.
But that move could have helped serve the defense's interest because one of its most important contentions was that Crown and Jenner received deferential treatment from the time prosecutors found themselves on the trail of Material Services Corp. The heavy hitter for the defense in the attack was Course's lawyer, James Coghlan, a lumbering but crafty man whose head is covered with ringlets of hair. Coghlan, in his opening argument, pointed to Course's World War II record and then stated, "There are people in this country who don't have to go to war and to jail, and Lester Crown is one of them." He said Course and the other defendants were falsely implicated by "elitists" who share "exclusive neighborhoods, the board rooms of giant corporations and banks and terraces of exclusive country clubs."
In his closing argument, Coghlan, acting as cleanup batter for the defense, insisted, "The Lester Crowns of this world always get a better deal. Why should it be different if they get into trouble?" His voice tinged with sarcasm, he turned to the middle-to-lower class jury of six men and six women and asked, "Isn't that what made this country great?" Throughout his final appeal to the jury, Coghlan peppered his remarks with references to Jenner as "super lawyer" or just plain "super."
Actually, the Crown issue was one that all defense lawyers could rally around without concern for damaging the case of one defendant while trying to bolster another. The defense also formed a common bond in searing attacks on former legislators Pappas
December 1976 / Illinois Issues/ 9
|The defense ripped into the prosecution witnesses. Each defendant had to make his own case. Most pleaded ignorance that the money was a payoff|
and Carpentier. Tom Hett, Rep. Wall's lawyer, told the jury near the conclusion of the trial that Pappas was "laughing out of the side of his mouth at everyone in this room . . . because he put one over on us." He speculated that Pappas pocketed more money than he had admitted. Pappas, he contended, fooled the government and was attempting to deceive the jury by "selling his friends and everybody else out." Hett persisted, "He is a tax evader. He admitted he is a briber. He admitted he is a conspirator, and he is a convicted felon." Harry Busch, Rep. Louis Capuzi's lawyer, depicted the chief government witness as an "arch-conniver."
James Coghlan, Course's lawyer, described Carpentier as "whiskey soaked" and William Barnett, former Sen. Walker's lawyer, lashed out at Carpentier as "an admitted liar and cheat" who "tried to trap his friends" in a "desperate" effort to avoid punishment "for his crimes." He pleaded with the jury, "Do not destroy Jack Walker on the word of this man." Barnett continued, "Three times he took the solemn oath [before a federal grand jury prior to becoming a government witness] to tell the truth . . . and three times swore falsely."
As part of the defense assault on Pappas and Carpentier, lawyers elicited admissions from them that they had taken bribes on at least one other bill prior to the cement bill scheme. "You and Representative Pete Pappas shared some money in connection with a garbage bill [weight relief for garbage trucks], didn't you?" Coghlan asked Carpentier in the first of a series of piercing questions. Carpentier responded affirmatively to that query and to Coghlan's next assertion that he "sought to conceal" the bribe. The lawyer persisted. Carpentier was "not willing to face up to the consequences of his crime," right? "That was true," the former state senator replied,
Earlier in the trial, Coghlan ripped into Pappas in a similar line of questioning. "Tell us when in point of time it was that you decided you would be false to the people who sent you to Springy field and take the money for your vote?" Coghlan asked. "Sometime in 1971," Pappas replied quietly. "When you decided to accept your first bribe in 1971, did you desire to conceal your criminal conduct from your fellow legislators and the General Assembly and the people who sent you to Springfield?" Coghlan asked. "I didn't think about that," Pappas answered. The lawyer then asked whether Pappas, after accepting his first bribe, was determined to maintain "the facade of respectability you had maintained about your legislative career." The reply: "Yes, sir." Finally, Coghlan posed, "You never went before the people who sent you to Springfield and confessed . . . '.)" Pappas said in a hushed voice, "It was nothing to be proud of."
Contributions or bribes?
Still, each defendant had to make his own case. One of the more onerous loads was borne by Course, the normally quiet, affable manager of Chicago's lakefront airport, Meigs Field, and a longtime loyal soldier in Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley's army. Senator Course, 62, was cited not only in 14 counts of the December 1974 main indictment but also in a separate perjury indictment for allegedly lying to the grand jury in 1973. After taped conversations showed Course acknowledged receipt of some money, he adopted the posture that he believed the $5, 000 in cash he received from lobbyist Peter V. Pappas in the fall of 1972 was for campaign contributions from "the trucking industry" to be distributed to fellow Democrat senators. The grand jury, he said, had asked him about bribes and payoffs and not legitimate campaign contributions.
Also carrying a king-sized defense burden was lobbyist Pappas, represented by Sherman Magidson, regarded as one of the best appeals lawyers in Chicago. Pappas, an alumnus of" the University of Chicago and recognized expert in trucking and public library law, had been implicated by both legislative and cement industry witnesses as the "middleman" in the scheme the conduit for funnelling funds from the industry to corrupt legislators He did not testify in his own defense, but he sent several witnesses to the stand to chip away at portions of the case against him. Among those witnesses was his wife. Mary. herself a lawyer and a delegate to the historic 1970 state Constitutional Convention.
Also .sending his wife to the witness stand while not speaking himself was former Rep. Frank North, 48, who had been House sponsor of the cement bill North's defense, supported by the testimony of his spouse, was that 1972 was a difficult reelection campaign for him and he accepted the $1.000 in cash from legislator Pappas as a campaign boost from a trusted friend rather than as a payoff for supporting the cement bill. Even prior to the verdict. North a Rockford alderman for 16 years, had been damaged by the cement bill case. As rumors circulated in 1974 about his possible involvement in the cement bill scandal, he was defeated in a bid for reelection.
A third defendant's wife to testify was Mrs. Pearl Walker, who said she opened all her politician-husband's mail at home tor the last 15 of their 26 years of marriage. The mother of three and wife of former Senator Walker provided one of the most emotional moments of the trial when she was asked whether she ever opened "an envelope containing $500 in currency." Emotion gripped her voice and tears came quickly as she said, "No. sir. I have never received any currency in the mail."
Her husband was one of the most popular members among his colleagues during his years in Springfield which terminated when he was defeated for reelection in 1974, If his fate were left to "club" members and staff there, Jack Walker would have been in no danger of going to prison.. They would not have of doing that to the garrulous, fun-loving Walker, who packed about 200) years of living into 65. The former House speaker, however, was not taking his case to the "club." And the jury had damaging testimony from Carpentier and also taped conversations in which Walker appeared to be admitting receipt of the money.
Taking the stand in his own defense, Walker said he had been tricked by Carpentier into believing he received money. In the fall of 1972. al about the time Carpentier said he sent $500 to Walker's home. the latter had placed
10/ December 1976/ Illinois Issues
Also insisting he received no money on the cement bill was Rep. John Wall, the silver-haired, grandfatherly type of representative from Mayor Daley's ward in Chicago. Wall 62, still facing extortion charges in another case, said he had never talked with legislator Pappas about the cement bill, had never agreed to recruit other representatives for the scheme and had not received $700 from Pappas. There were no taped conversations to dispute his version. The government, according to one of the prosecutors, had not asked Pappas to tape Wall because there was no "natural situation where it could be done."
Similarly, there were no tapes of conversations between Reps. Pappas and Capuzi. But Capuzi, taking his turn on the witness stand, acknowledged receipt of $200 from Pappas. He did so after Rep. Bernard E. Epton (R., Chicago) testified that Capuzi in a 1974 conversation concerning the cement bill Probe said he had received $200 from legislator Pappas. Capuzi. 55, a non- Practicing chiropodist or "toe doctor," as his lawyer put it. said he accepted the money from Pappas as a campaign contribution from a fellow legislator he knew to be "a man of means." He said, "Pete would tell us white we were sitting around that he was . ., loaded. He'd say, 'You guys sweat it out here. I'm going to Acapulco.'" The Chicago Republican, often linked to the ill reputed West Side bloc in the General Assembly and also a deputy coroner in Cook County, pointed out that he did not even vote for the measure when it cleared the House, 108-1, but the prosecution was quick to underscore that he had helped move the bill out of the House Motor Vehicle Laws Committee.
Robert Craig, a veteran representative, auctioneer and successful grain, dairy and livestock farmer, presented the quietest but potentially most significant defense. He stood his ground on a constitutional point. The "speech or debate" clause of the federal and state constitutions, his lawyers insisted, severely limit inquiries into the legislative process.
Craig's lawyers — Anna Lavin and Edward Calihan — won victories on that point in another case, U.S. v. Markert, in which Craig is a defendant. That case involving alleged extortion of the rental car industry by legislators in order to kill a bill unfavorable to the industry has not gone to trial. However, prior to the cement bill trial, a district judge and later a three-judge appellate panel came down strongly on the side of Craig's lawyers in ruling on a pretrial motion.
This hobbled prosecutors in the "cement bill" trial because they were barred from introducing the votes or floor speeches by defendants on the "cement bill" unless the defendants took the witness stand. Thus, it did not come to the attention of the jury, for example, that North was a major sponsor of the "cement bill" in the House.
Ironically, the earlier triumphs by Craig's lawyers were reversed after the cement bill trial in a ruling by the full appellate court of the 7th Circuit, but there was little doubt that the constitutional fight, which could affect bribery prosecutions of legislators for years to come, will be carried to the U.S. Supreme Court. Cement industry executive Sheahen's defense was far less complex and he chose his family lawyer, low-profiled Robert Weber of Highland Park to carry his cause. True, Sheahen was president of the Northern Illinois Ready-Mix Association, focal point of the bribe kitty, at the time the scheme was in progress. But he was kept in the dark, he insisted, while others in the association from larger companies like Material Service Corp. and Meyer Material did the dirty work. He asked his company to contribute $800, he testified, because he thought the funds would be used for legitimate lobbying activities. Sheahen, an Annapolis graduate with a well-scrubbed look, paraded several character witnesses to discuss his roles as a civic leader, Boy Scout stalwart and church school teacher. His wife was in the courtroom virtually every day during the trial, remaining home one day when Sheahen wanted to spare her from "rough language" in taped conversations aired in the courtroom.
Chief prosecutor Webb, barely over 30 and a product of the small western Illinois community of Bushnell, had his work cut out for him as the last lawyer to address the jury. He spent considerable time on the immunity question. The government, he said, had to negotiate the package deal with Crown, the Material Service executive, and his counsel, Jenner, because its investigation had come to a dead end. Particularly critical, he said, was the testimony of Material Service's lobbyist in Springfield, the now-deceased James McBride. And that testimony, which he said was jarred loose only by the use of immunity, "broke the case wide open." The role of Crown would never have become public knowledge otherwise. Even though Crown was not prosecuted, the young lawyer said, "the facade of respectability that he surrounded himself with all his life was shattered in this courtroom." Moreover, a half-dozen cement industry officials had pleaded guilty in the case and were awaiting sentencing; some bribers were to pay a more tangible penalty than Crown.
Webb then turned his rapid-fire oratory on the controversial involvement of Sen. William C. Harris (R., Pontiac), Senate Republican leader for several years (1976 G.O.P. candidate for secretary of state), in the cement bill case. Reacting to innuendoes from the defense that Harris had been spared in a selective prosecution by the government, Webb said the senator had been thoroughly investigated. True, Harris had been named in the very first tip in the case — a tip that came from Richard Dunn, a Senate Republican staff member at the time who was close to a Hams intraparty foe. Sen. Terrel Clarke (R., Western Springs). But, Webb insisted, Harris' role was scrutinized and there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part in connection with the case. This
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echoed the testimony of Webb's boss, hard-charging U.S. Attorney Samuel K. Skinner.
In addition, Webb and another U.S. attorney, James Holderman, who along with John Gleason did much of the legal research for the prosecution, told the jury why it would be considering mail fraud conspiracy and mail fraud charges when the entire case had been concerned with bribery allegations. The U.S. mails. they explained, cannot be used in furtherance of illegal schemes and state lines cannot be crossed to aid the machinations of wrongdoers. In this case, both were done, they said.
Webb told the jurors: "Your verdict may ring out around this state and it may ring out loudest in the Illinois General Assembly. The people of this state . . . and that Illinois General Assembly, which I'm sure has mostly good people in it, are a lot better off today because what was going on in that Illinois General Assembly was exposed."
A near sweep for the government
After more than 24 hours of deliberation over a three-day period, the jury returned with its verdicts. It did so in a mammoth ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor of the courthouse. An overflow crowd, reportedly the largest in years to witness such an event, could not be accommodated in the 21st floor courtroom where the drama had been unfolding on a daily basis. Meanwhile, legislators in Springfield and House and Senate pages waited by telegraph machines in the Capitol pressroom for the historic decisions. After agonizing moments of delay, the verdicts came, like bolts of lightning. Walker, guilty. Craig, guilty. North, guilty. Course, guilty. Capuzi, guilty. Lobbyist Pappas, guilty. Wall and Sheahen were acquitted, but they restrained their joy in light of their co-defendants' fate. The government had been handed a near sweep.
Legislators in Springfield were stunned. Already, nearly 20 of their colleagues had been indicted in about three years. Would the convictions mean a new round of prosecutorial assaults on the General Assembly? The result was certainly encouraging to corruption probers. Would the convictions mean that legislators would continue turning on their colleagues to save their own skins, to break the rules of the club? The success of thc prosecution would probably mean that legislators might be more inclined to make deals when convinced that the government was on to something. Would the convictions mean a cleaner General Assembly? That remains to be seen.
The jurors interviewed after the verdict left little doubt that they were outraged by what they believed to be the "stench of corruption" and wanted to take decisive action to discourage payoffs in the future. But there seemed to be a different kind of out rage among legislator-defendants and many of their Springfield colleagues. Rep. Craig, guilty on all 14 counts and charged in still another indictment, said. "When all the smoke clears, there will be some red faces and mine won't be one of them."
When Judge Leighton. in a post-trial move granted a motion for acquittal for Rep. Capuzi because of "insufficient evidence" and without further explanation, the Chicago legislator was greeted warmly by many of his colleagues as he returned to the House. Sentencing was October 29 (see sidebar on p. 7).
In fact, the first official response of a legislative body came when the House overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging the governor to block state contracts with admitted bribers a sign of distaste for the Lester Crowns of the world.
12 / December 1976/ Illinois Issues