CHICAGO — A federal judge has denied the attempt by a former challenger to powerful Ill. House Speaker Michael Madigan to resurrect his legal action against Madigan and several of his political allies, alleging the lawmaker and his political associates imrproperly conspired to sabotage his 2016 Democratic primary election campaign.
District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly dismissed Jason Gonzales’ suit with prejudice, ending Gonzales' action against the nine defendants accused in the federal complaint.
In March 2016, Gonzales fell well short in his primary run to unseat Madigan and become the Democratic nominee for District 22 in the Illinois House of Representatives; Gonzales received just over 25 percent of the vote. He immediately charged that two other candidates on the ballot were “sham candidates,” stalking horses put on the ballot by Madigan's organization to split the Hispanic vote Gonzales was vying for. At the time, people of Hispanic origin constituted at least 70 percent of district residents.
Following the election, Gonzales sued, alleging the conduct of the defendants violated his rights under the Constitution and state law.
Specifically, Gonzales alleged Madigan and his supporters used information from Gonzales' expunged criminal record to spread stories about his being a “convicted felon," as part of a campaign to smear Gonzales.
Court documents reveal as a teenager Gonzales was convicted of unlawful use of credit cards and served a sentence that included jail time. He later returned to high school and became an Illinois State Scholar, ultimately earning degrees from Duke University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
A Chicago Democrat, Gonzales was pardoned and cleared by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2015.
Earlier this year, the court dismissed Gonzales’ initial complaint but granted him leave to amend his claims targeting certain defendants.
In rendering its latest verdict, the court deemed Gonzales’ accusations “insufficient,” adding “candidacy for public office does not make the candidate's conduct attributable to the state.”
Throughout the proceedings, Gonzales insisted that several of the accused acted under the color of state law in carrying out their actions.
In his ruling, Kennelly also made certain to stipulate that “Gonzales does not point to any state authority wielded by candidates for public office used to deprive Gonzales of his constitutional rights.”
Madigan, who was later reelected state House Speaker, has served in the Illinois General Assembly for more than four decades, serving as House Speaker for all but two years since 1983, ranking as the longest-serving leader of any state legislative body in the country.
Madigan was represented in the proceedings by attorneys Joel D. Bertocchi, J. William Roberts, Robert T. Shannon, Gretchen H. Sperry and Adam R. Vaught of the firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson, of Chicago.
Gonzales was represented by attorney Anthony J. Peraica, of Chicago.
Others formally named as defendants in the case included Madigan’s campaign organization, the 13th Ward Democratic Organization and individuals Shaw Decremer, Silvana Tabares, Ray Hanania, Joe Barbosa and Grasiela Rodriguez.