Judge denies Sam McCann's request to delay trial again

Trial for former gubernatorial candidate on illegal campaign fund spending charges will begin as scheduled Feb. 5

The bench trial of former Conservative Party gubernatorial candidate Sam McCann on illegal campaign fund spending charges will begin as scheduled Feb. 5, a federal judge ruled Jan. 10 when she turned down McCann’s request for another delay in the almost 3-year-old case.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Lawless also denied McCann’s second request since January for a delay in filing a list of potential witnesses the Plainview resident plans to call to the stand and testify during the trial.

Judge denies Sam McCann's request to delay trial again
Former Illinois gubernatorial candidate Sam McCann of Plainview speaks with members of the news media Nov. 27 outside U.S. District Court in Springfield. His bench trial on federal charges of illegal campaign spending was delayed until Feb. 5, but the judge has now denied his request to postpone the trial again.
Lawless ordered McCann, 54, a former Republican state senator from Plainview, to file the list with the court by 5 p.m. Jan. 11 so prosecutors and the judge can review it ahead of the trial.

Lawless noted that McCann has had five or six court-paid attorneys since he was indicted by a federal grand jury Feb. 2, 2021. The judge said she wasn’t persuaded by McCann’s argument that he hasn’t had enough time to prepare for a trial.

McCann argued unsuccessfully that he should be given more time to evaluate almost 70,000 pages of evidence from the prosecution. He said he deserved the delay because he was dissatisfied with his latest attorneys and decided Nov. 27 to represent himself going forward.

McCann made the decision despite Lawless warning him of the potential pitfalls. McCann, who isn’t a lawyer, lacks a college degree and hasn’t studied law.

He is receiving guidance in the case from court-appointed “stand-by counsel” Jason Vincent of Springfield. But it’s up to McCann to present arguments in court and respond to Lawless and to Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass, who is prosecuting the case.

McCann has pleaded not guilty to the grand jury’s seven felony counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering and one count of tax evasion. He formerly operated a construction company and ran unsuccessfully under the Conservative Party banner in 2018 against former Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, and the eventual winner, Democrat JB Pritzker.

The charges say McCann, who has called the case politically motivated, allegedly engaged in a scheme from May 2015 to June 2020 to illegally pay himself and make personal purchases totaling more than $200,000 from contributions to his campaign committees.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to prison for 20 years or more.

McCann wrote in his Jan. 10 request for a trial delay of at least 60 days that there is “no humanly possible way to read and digest nearly 70,000 pages of evidence, let alone prepare an adequate and reasonable defense in the amount of time currently allotted.”

He added: “The previous two court-appointed defense attorneys have stated, themselves multiple times, that they, as licensed, admitted attorneys – with support staff – were not able to synthesize all the evidence over the course of years and months, respectively.”

McCann said that in reading through some of the evidence provided by the prosecution, “I find obligations and opportunities for additions to an ever-developing witness list, as well as direct rebuttals. This is the first time in this case that this approach has been taken by defense, by the admission of the previous attorneys.”

East Peoria lawyer Charles Schierer, McCann’s most recent court-appointed attorney, declined comment on McCann’s criticisms.

Bass told the judge that McCann’s latest requests for delays fit a pattern.

“At every stage of the proceeding, the defendant has attempted to manipulate the process,” Bass said.

Bass said most of the records that McCann complains are overwhelming to evaluate represent McCann’s own financial records, which McCann has had access to since the case began.

In denying McCann’s requests for court delays, Lawless said McCann has received enough opportunities over a three-year period to prepare an adequate defense, and it’s his own fault if he isn’t ready by now. Lawless scheduled a final pretrial hearing Jan. 16.

Dean Olsen is a senior staff writer at Illinois Times. He can be reached at [email protected], 217-679-7810 or twitter.com/DeanOlsenIT.

Dean Olsen

Dean Olsen is a senior staff writer for Illinois Times. He can be reached at:
[email protected], 217-679-7810 or @DeanOlsenIT.

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