It took pressure from around the state, but Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Reitz’s office announced on Friday that it had launched a multi-agency investigation into the Michael McClain rape and ghost workers email. Reitz told Chicago’s WBEZ in an interview Friday that her office is involved in a “comprehensive investigation” with the Illinois Attorney General, the Illinois State Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois into the content of the email. Reitz did not reveal which agency was leading the investigation.
Also Friday, Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly acknowledged his agency is working with a state watchdog who’s investigating the email.
The email has reverberated through state politics and West Central Illinois this week. Its author, Michael McClain, was a longtime statehouse lobbyist and lawyer from Quincy who was a close ally and confidante of House Speaker and state Democratic Party boss Michael Madigan. Forest Ashby, the employee whom McClain was intervening for served as an associate warden at the Mt. Sterling based correctional facility for the Illinois Department of Corrections as well as an administrative assistant at the Rushville detention facility for the Illinois Department of Human Services. Ashby is also a Quincy native. McClain had written to then-Governor Pat Quinn’s aides to seek leniency for Ashby who had “kept his mouth shut” about “ghost workers” and “the rape in Champaign,” though it’s unclear what he was referring to. When WBEZ confronted McClain outside of a swanky steak house in Chicago this week, he refused to reveal any information about the cryptic email to reporters.
A bi-partisan call into the corruption came after it was revealed that Ashby was still on the state’s payroll for the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board as well as a former aide to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
Illinois’ Downstate GOP Congressional delegation including 18th District Congressman Darin LaHood and 13th District Congressman Rodney Davis called for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Friday to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the content of the email. Davis, whose district encompasses Champaign, was troubled that Reitz’s office had initially refused to investigate.
Others in the state chided Governor Pritzker for not reacting properly to the email. Republican State Representative Allen Skillicorn of East Dundee even went so far as to say Pritzker condoned the contents of the email. Outgoing Senate President John Cullerton said that he believes House Speaker Michael Madigan when Madigan says that he had no knowledge of McClain’s actions.
WLDS will continue to monitor this saga, especially with its connections to West Central Illinois as it continues to develop.