After failing to defeat one of Illinois’ most powerful
politicians at the ballot box, Jason Gonzales is trying his hand in a federal
Gonzales, a Chicago Democrat, filed a complaint Aug. 5
against Michael J. Madigan, the longtime speaker of the Illinois House of
Representatives and the man who defeated Gonzales in a Democratic primary this
spring. Other named defendants include Friends of Michael J. Madigan, the 13th
Ward Democratic Organizations, Prisoner Review Board, Madigan aide Shaw Decremer,
state Rep. Silvana Tabares, D-Chicago, journalist Ray Hanania and fellow
candidates Joe Barbosa and Grasiela Rodriguez.
According to Gonzales, the defendants violated his First, 14th
and 15th amendment rights as well as violated state laws regarding
defamation, criminal history disclosure and conspiracy to prevent voting.
In making his case against Madigan, Gonzales called
attention to his own background, which includes unlawful use of credit cards as
a teenager that earned him felony and misdemeanor convictions, jail time,
probation and fines. Following that, he returned to high school, became an
Illinois State Scholar, enrolled in Michigan State University, and graduated
with honors from Duke University with degrees in history and economics. He
later earned a Master of Business Administration from Massachusetts Institute
of Technology and Master of Public Administration from Harvard University.
While pursuing public office, Gonzales petitioned three
governors for pardons. After Jim Edgar and George Ryan did not grant his
request, Pat Quinn on Jan. 9, 2015, issued a full pardon and record clearing. By
that October, he said, his criminal files had been either expunged or sealed. By
Nov. 30, he filed nominating petitions as a Democrat in Madigan’s 22nd
Gonzales said he filed his petitions 15 minutes before the
deadline, after which Decremer — “who had been staking out the election
office prior to Gonzales’ arrival and kept his attention fixed on Gonzales once
Gonzales arrived” — filed nomination paperwork on behalf of Barbosa and
Rodriguez. He said each was “a phony candidate planted by the defendants … to
dilute the Hispanic vote,” noting 70 percent of the district’s residents are
Hispanic and that neither person maintained a campaign website or promoted their
During early voting, Gonzales said Tabares committed
defamation by instructing other voters to not vote for Gonzales because he was
a “convicted felon” and he accused Hanania of publishing defamatory statements
on his various platforms.
Singling out Madigan, Gonzales accused the speaker of
“tainting the pool of voters with messages that Gonzales was convicted felon in
television commercials, internet commercials, mailers, yard signs, in-person
encounters with potential voters as Madigan and his employees and/or agents
went door to door throughout District 22, and the like, after Gonzales had
received a full gubernatorial pardon.”
He specifically said Madigan and his team directly implied
Gonzales was ineligible for office as a convicted felon, despite Quinn’s pardon
clearing his record. As that pardon was known to all parties, Gonzales said
their showed malicious intent.
Gonzales also said the Prisoner Review Board disclosed
records that should have been expunged or sealed to, among others, Daily Herald
reporter Jerry Lester.
The complaint includes 39 individual counts of violations of
state and federal laws. In addition to a jury trial, Gonzales seeks
“substantial compensatory and punitive damages” as well as legal fees.
Gonzales is represented in the matter by attorney Anthony J.
Peraica, of Chicago.