After failing to defeat one of Illinois’ most powerful politicians at the ballot box, Jason Gonzales is trying his hand in a federal courtroom. 

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. 

Anthony Peraica
Anthony Peraica

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 House District. 

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 candidacy. 

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.

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