The federal perjury trial of former Springfield insider Tim Mapes was bound to highlight the tight-knit nature of Illinois politics and the fierce opinions it engenders.

That became clear even during jury selection: One prospective juror said he is close friends with a former state representative. Two worked for AT&T, a company caught up in the widespread corruption scandal related to powerful former Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Then there was the potential juror who wrote in her questionnaire that Madigan, Mapes’ ex-boss, could not be trusted.

Further, she wrote, she hopes Madigan “and all his friends go to jail.”

She was dismissed shortly afterward.

In all, 22 people made it past the first round of cuts Monday as prosecutors and defense lawyers sifted through the potential jurors. The process is slated to continue Tuesday morning. Opening statements are expected to begin after attorneys have selected 12 jurors along with alternates.

Mapes, 68, is accused of lying to grand jurors in an attempt to obstruct the sweeping federal corruption case against Madigan. He has pleaded not guilty to both the perjury and attempted obstruction counts. The latter charge calls for up to 20 years in federal prison, while lying to a grand jury carries a five-year maximum prison sentence.

According to prosecutors, Mapes lied repeatedly in his March 31, 2021, grand jury testimony in an ill-fated attempt to protect his former boss, claiming he couldn’t recall anything relevant about Madigan’s relationship with longtime confidant Michael McClain.

While Mapes is hardly a household name outside the state’s political circles, his indictment marked an intriguing power play by the U.S. attorney’s office in what has become one of the biggest political corruption scandals in state history.

Mapes has denied wrongdoing. His attorneys have maintained federal authorities were attempting to squeeze him to give up information to bolster the prosecution’s case against Madigan, who is slated for his own trial next year.

Before Mapes’ jury selection got underway Monday, U.S. District Judge John Kness made a flurry of decisions about what evidence could be introduced at trial.

Jurors will not hear the name of a onetime campaign aide who accused a Madigan lieutenant of sexual harassment, Kness ruled. They could, however, hear recordings of a conversation with a member of Madigan’s inner circle concerning the transfer of state property to the city in Chinatown in an alleged scheme to bring business to Madigan’s property-tax law firm.

Tim Mapes arrives at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago on Aug. 7, 2023.

Jurors may hear evidence, including wiretap recordings, related to a wide range of insider Springfield dealings, such as the alleged Chinatown land transfer proposal and the 2018 sexual harassment allegations that brought down some Madigan allies, including Mapes.

But the matters discussed on the tapes are not the main issue in the trial — rather, the recordings will be played in an attempt by prosecutors to prove that Mapes had a tight-knit relationship with Madigan and McClain.

The Mapes defense team successfully sought to block the name of whistleblower Alaina Hampton from the trial, viewing it as prejudicial. Hampton was involved in a high-profile 2018 scandal in which she accused Madigan lieutenant Kevin Quinn of sexual harassment.

Madigan subsequently ousted Quinn, the brother of Madigan’s hand-picked 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, from the then-speaker’s government and political operations. Hampton later settled a federal lawsuit against four Madigan-controlled campaign committees over allegations that she was blackballed from Madigan’s organization because she called out Kevin Quinn.

In his ruling on Hampton, Kness acknowledged the matter, which rocked Madigan’s operations while Mapes was still chief of staff, had received extensive “public exposure.”

The judge suggested it is the topic of sexual harassment accusations, which was discussed within Madigan’s inner circle while Mapes was on board, that’s potentially relevant to the case, not Hampton’s name specifically.

For Madigan, 2018 was a year of reckoning with the #MeToo movement as he ended up separating several allegedly misbehaving allies from his political and government teams, including Mapes.

Madigan in June 2018 ousted Mapes from his top roles as chief of staff, House clerk and executive director of the Madigan-run Democratic Party of Illinois. It happened just hours after a downstate staffer accused Mapes of sexual harassment and fostering a “culture of sexism, harassment and bullying.” Mapes disputed the allegations.

In the perjury case Monday, the defense also successfully kept out of the trial the name of attorney Julie Porter, who once served as interim legislative inspector general while Mapes and Madigan were in office. She is the wife of Mapes’ attorney Andrew Porter.

Kness, in ruling, said he did “not want to draw the jury’s attention” to the idea that Julie and Andrew Porter are spouses, saying it’s not important for jurors to know the name of the legislative inspector general.

Julie Porter’s work as legislative IG included reviewing marijuana advocate Maryann Loncar’s accusations of “inappropriate behavior” by Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, including what she considered sexual harassment.

Lang, who is on a list of potential witnesses in the Mapes trial, immediately branded Loncar’s allegations “absurd” and later declared himself vindicated when Porter determined a “preponderance of evidence does not support Loncar’s allegation” that Lang engaged in misconduct and closed the matter.

Porter wrote she attempted to reach Loncar via mail, email and Facebook but that “she has declined to respond to my overtures.” Porter did interview Lang and other witnesses. At the time, Loncar released a statement that called the process a “joke,” saying she was leery of a review process in which the IG was chosen by lawmakers.

Loncar sat in the courtroom gallery Monday, saying that she wanted to “see justice served for the women citizens of Illinois.”

Lang testified in the previous ComEd Four trial in which all four defendants, including McClain, were convicted.

Prosecutors played a series of recordings that showed Madigan, with McClain’s help, muscled Lang out of his longtime House seat following Loncar’s allegations and concerns that other accusations may surface against Lang, who once served on Madigan’s leadership team.

During that case, Lang bristled when a lawyer referred to “sexual harassment charges” in one of his questions, prompting Lang to loudly declare he “was not facing sexual harassment charges” and that he resented “the allegation and the inference.”

In the Mapes case, prosecutors have alleged Mapes lied when he said he had no knowledge that McClain had communicated with two unnamed state representatives in 2018 on Madigan’s behalf. The Tribune reported the two Democrats are Lang and Rep. Bob Rita of Blue Island, who is also a potential witness.

Other potential witnesses in the case include former House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago; longtime Madigan staffers-turned-lobbyists Tom Cullen, Will Cousineau and Craig Willert, who are three former political point men on the speaker’s staff.

Nancy Kimme, longtime top aide to Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, also was mentioned as a potential witness.

Two years ago, Democratic Rep. Theresa Mah, who represents Chinatown, told the Tribune that Kimme, acting as a lobbyist, had brought an amendment for a Chinatown parcel to the lawmaker and asked her to sponsor it. But Mah said she had declined, saying the community was against it

In the interview, Mah said Kimme, who has deep political relationships on both sides of the aisle, did not say whom she represented when she was pushing the proposal. Many lawmakers expect lobbyists to disclose their clients when bringing an amendment forward.

In a written order, Kness ruled against Mapes’ request to prevent jurors from hearing about a conversation with McClain regarding the Chinatown property.

In a discussion with Mapes, McClain allegedly referred to the Chinatown issue as an “assignment” from Madigan, and prosecutors are contending Mapes’ did not answer truthfully in the grand jury about what he knew about McClain’s relationship with Madigan.

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That evidence “pertains directly” to whether Mapes knew he was lying about McClain’s relationship with Madigan, the judge wrote.

Mapes’ allegedly misleading statements did not stop Madigan and McClain from both being indicted on racketeering charges last year. Prosecutors alleged Madigan was at the top of a criminal enterprise aimed at enriching himself and his cronies and maintaining his nearly unfettered political power.

Madigan and McClain have pleaded not guilty in that pending case.

Mapes’ indictment in May 2021 caught many by surprise, particularly since he was granted immunity from prosecution by the U.S. attorney’s office and warned by the chief judge before his grand jury testimony that failing to answer truthfully could result in criminal charges against him.

Mapes is receiving just under $150,000 a year in a taxpayer-supported state pension. Since his ouster in 2018, he has received $711,282 in pension benefits, according to the state’s pension system.

rlong@chicagotribune.com

mcrepeau@chicagotribune.com