• Former Illinois lawmaker William “Sam” McCann pleaded guilty to nine felonies, including wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, abruptly ending his federal corruption trial on Thursday.
  • The guilty plea comes after McCann fired his court-appointed attorneys and reversed his decision on the third day of the trial.
  • McCann’s attorney requested his release, but the judge rejected the idea and offered McCann the option of an unconditional open plea.

Former Illinois lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate William “Sam” McCann abruptly pleaded guilty Thursday to nine felony counts of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, halting his federal corruption trial for misusing up to $550,000 in contributions campaign.

McCann, who last fall broke off plea deal negotiations when he fired his court-appointed attorneys, made the reversal on the third day of a trial before U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Lawless. His final attorney, Jason Vincent of Springfield, asked that he be released from custody as part of the deal, but Lawless rejected the idea and told McCann his only option was to offer an unconditional open statement.

The seven counts of wire fraud and the single count of money laundering each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. For tax evasion, there are three. But a complex set of counseling guidelines before Lawless, which set sentencing for June 20, will likely result in a much shorter timeline.


“Is he pleading guilty because he really is?” He asked her lawlessly. McCann, 54, dressed in the gray-and-black striped jumpsuit of the nearby county jail where he is being held, responded, “Yes, your honor.”

Sam McCann

Former Illinois Republican Sen. Sam McCann speaks at the state Capitol on March 5, 2018, in Springfield, Illinois. McCann abruptly pleaded guilty to nine counts of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion Thursday in federal court. (Erin Brown/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

Lawless set a hearing for Friday on McCann’s request for release, but it is sure to draw opposition from the government, and not just because McCann violated parole last week when he left the state to check into a hospital with chest pains. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass told Lawless that he would present as additional evidence of McCann’s unreliability a bizarre social media video posted just this week in which McCann claims a government conspiracy involving a “package of lies” wicked” is against them.


McCann, a state senator from 2011 to 2019, formed the Illinois Conservative Party to campaign for governor in 2018. A criminal indictment in 2021 outlined numerous schemes McCann employed to convert contributions from his campaign committees into purchasing vehicles, paying one overdue loan and two mortgages. , credit card bills and finance family vacations, entertainment and other purchases.

For his failed gubernatorial bid, he raised more than $3 million from Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers alone. Despite being questioned four times by FBI and IRS agents in the summer of 2018 about alleged improper spending, he spent $340,000 in leftover campaign funds on personal expenses in the year after the election.

McCann’s trial was repeatedly delayed. On the day it was supposed to begin last November, McCann announced that he had fired his court-appointed attorneys and that he would represent himself, later telling reporters, “God’s taking care of this.” The procedure was rescheduled for Feb. 5, but McCann didn’t show up and sent an email over the weekend saying he was at a St. Louis-area hospital.

Back in court on February 12, a circumspect Lawless thoroughly questioned McCann when he told her she was “medically and psychologically” unable to stand trial and that he ceded control of her defense to Vincent.

At the time, McCann told the judge he had very few memories of anything that occurred after his release from the hospital on Feb. 7, including a 55-mile trip last Friday from his home to Springfield to turn himself in for circumventing guidelines. of parole. He was driving a pickup truck matching the description that prosecutors say he used $60,000 in campaign funds to partially purchase.


On Tuesday, while McCann was in prison, the video appeared on Instagram. McCann was driving what appeared to be a truck and told onlookers that he was innocent of the charges. He claimed that an “Orwellian” government had attempted to accuse him of failing to provide assistance in other investigations, offering an outlandish story about an investigation into McCann’s “unholy alliance” with then-House Speaker Michael Madigan to “manipulate a choice”.

“I didn’t want to play ball. They came back to me and said, ‘Well, we’ve got you on this,'” McCann says in the video. “And if you just tell us what we want to hear, we’ll stop investigating. And I said, ‘No, I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear. I’ll tell the truth.'”

So federal agents continued to investigate and, McCann said, managed to “turn everything I’ve ever touched” into “these machinations of evil deeds.”

By Sam