PHOTO BY DEAN OLSEN
Macoupin County resident Sam McCann, a former Republican state senator and unsuccessful Conservative Party gubernatorial candidate in 2018, speaks with the news media Nov. 27 after a U.S. District Court hearing in Springfield.
The scheduled Feb. 5 start of former Conservative Party gubernatorial candidate Sam McCann’s trial was delayed until Feb. 12 after the judge presiding in the alleged illegal campaign fund spending case learned McCann was hospitalized in St. Louis.
McCann, a Macoupin County resident charged in a federal grand jury indictment three years ago,
told U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Lawless in a video call from his hospital bed at Missouri Baptist Medical Center the afternoon of Feb. 6 that he might be discharged later that evening.
McCann, 54, who responded to the judge’s questions, had his eyes closed with his head leaning back on a pillow for most of the hearing and opened his eyes after the hearing ended.
But he remained at Missouri Baptist on Feb. 7, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass said during a court hearing the same day that hospital officials told him McCann might be discharged later in the day.
Lawless turned down Bass' request to begin the bench trial Feb. 8 if McCann were discharged Feb. 7. The judge said it would be too soon and "not in the interest of justice" for McCann, who had been hospitalized since at least Feb. 4, to be expected to appear in court Feb. 8.
Information about the reasons for McCann’s hospitalization hasn’t been disclosed publicly, though Lawless and Bass said in court that they received McCann's medical records from the hospital.
Bass, who is prosecuting McCann on felony counts of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, said he doubted McCann needed to be hospitalized.
"It's our belief ... that this entire situation is self-created by the defendant," Bass told the judge. "He is lying to you."
McCann, a former Republican state senator from Plainview, south of Carlinville, denied Bass’ allegation.
McCann previously said he was taking medicine for kidney stones and has received medical treatment in St. Louis for spinal problems.
Several court-appointed attorneys represented McCann until he decided Nov. 27 to represent himself. He is receiving limited legal services from a court-paid “stand-by” attorney, Jason Vincent of Springfield.
McCann’s trial was to have begun Nov. 27 but was postponed at that time.
Vincent told Lawless Feb. 5 that he received an email from Vicki McCann, Sam McCann’s wife, informing him that Sam McCann had been admitted to a hospital and would be having “a procedure” on Feb. 5.
Vincent said he reached his client by phone that morning, prior to the scheduled 9 a.m. start of the trial, and was told by McCann that he had become ill over the weekend and “passed out” the night of Feb. 3. McCann was scheduled to receive a “stress test” later in the day Feb. 5, according to Vincent.
McCann’s wife apparently drove McCann to the hospital, Bass said, but he added that Vicki McCann’s “credibility is very suspect.”
Bass said he is considering asking Lawless to revoke Sam McCann’s personal recognizance bond after McCann is released from the hospital. If granted, that would mean McCann likely would be jailed, and not allowed to be free, when not in court for the trial.
Bass said Vicki McCann was implicated and allegedly benefited from, but was not indicted, in Sam McCann’s alleged scheme to illegally pay himself and make purchases totaling more than $200,000 from contributions to his campaign committees so he could pay himself and cover personal expenses such as mortgage payments, cars and debts.
The charges against McCann, who formerly operated a construction company, carry a potential prison sentence of 20 years or more.
McCann previously was ordered to submit a list of potential witnesses in his defense by Jan. 23. He asked for, and received, an extension from the judge until Jan. 31 after he told Lawless Jan. 24 that he “suffers from various medical ailments that have become particularly symptomatic over the past week,” according to court records.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was first published online Feb. 5.
Dean Olsen is a senior staff writer at
Illinois Times. He can be reached at [email protected], 217-679-7810 or twitter.com/DeanOlsenIT.