SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A rape mentioned in a bombshell email sent to aides of then-governor Pat Quinn in 2012 may be referring to a case of child sexual abuse by an inmate out on early release, the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday.
The e-mails sent by lobbyist Mike McClain to Quinn's top aides have been front-and-center in Illinois politics since their contents were made public by WBEZ last week. A close friend of House Speaker Mike Madigan, McClain was writing on behalf of a prison worker who was in danger of being disciplined. In his emails, he mentions an alleged a rape cover-up and a ghost payroll system.
“There are two crimes that are discussed in this e-mail,” Illinois Governor J.B. Prizker said. “It’s a very serious matter that needs to be promptly investigated.”
Both Republican and Democrat politicians are calling for an investigation. Quinn said he had "no idea" about the emails until he learned about them in the WBEZ's reports.
A longtime observer of state politics, UIC political science professor Dick Simpson said the emails may be sparking controversy in part because they show a specific instance of politicians attempting to use their clout.
“When you hear what they actually said and hear what they were actually doing, it causes an outrage," Simpson said. "That’s much different from an general allegation that we have patronage and we have corruption.”
It has been unclear what specific incident is being referenced in the e-mail, until the Tribune's report said investigators are exploring whether the "rape in Champaign" is linked to a prison inmate who was released early, and then sexually abused a young girl.
When he was governor, Quinn used early release as a way to cut the budget. But the practice became controversial when early release inmates went on to commit violent crimes.
The Tribune source identified the case of Scott Thompson, who was released early from prison and then was convicted of sex abuse, as possibly the case mentioned in the email.
As the Office of the Executive Inspector General investigates, Simpson predicts the fallout will be wide-ranging as people are found to be connected with a criminal conspiracy. The email may even be part of a wider federal probe into corruption in Illinois government.
“We’re about to see the same kind of thing with Rod Blagojevich – there’s going to be a major scandal," Simpson said. "That’s going to ignite a need to pass major new legislation.”