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

McCann, who cut off negotiations over a plea deal last fall when he dismissed his court-appointed attorneys, made the reversal on the third day of a bench trial before U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Lawless. His latest lawyer, Jason Vincent, of Springfield, asked that he be released from custody as part of the deal, but Lawless nixed the idea, telling McCann his only option was to offer a no-strings open plea.

The seven counts of wire fraud and single count of money laundering each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. For tax evasion, it’s three. But a complex set of advisory guidelines before Lawless, who set sentencing for June 20, will likely yield a far shorter term.

“Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty?” Lawless asked. The 54-year-old McCann, wearing the gray-and-black striped jumpsuit of the nearby county jail where he’s held, replied, “Yes, your honor.”

Lawless set a hearing for Friday on McCann’s release request, but it’s certain to draw opposition from the government and not just because McCann violated probation last week when he left the state to check himself into a hospital with chest pains. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass told Lawless he would introduce as further evidence of McCann’s unreliability a bizarre social media video posted just this week in which McCann claims a government conspiracy involving an “ungodly pack of lies” is against him.

A state senator from 2011 to 2019, McCann formed the Conservative Party of Illinois to campaign for governor in 2018. A criminal indictment in 2021 outlined numerous schemes McCann employed to convert contributions from his campaign committees to buy vehicles, pay an overdue loan, two mortgages, credit card bills and fund a family vacation, entertainment and other purchases.

For his unsuccessful run for governor, he collected more than $3 million dollars from Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers alone. Despite being questioned four times by FBI and IRS agents in summer 2018 about alleged improper spending, he tore through $340,000 in leftover campaign funds for personal expenses in the year after the election.

McCann’s trial was repeatedly delayed. On the day it was supposed to start last November, McCann announced he had dismissed his court-appointed attorneys and would represent himself, telling reporters afterward, “God’s got this.” The proceeding was reset for Feb. 5, but McCann didn’t show, sending a weekend email that he was in a St. Louis-area hospital.


A verdict is expected Friday in Donald Trump’s New York civil fraud trial, adding to a consequential week on the former president’s legal calendar.

Trump could be hit with millions of dollars in penalties and other sanctions in the decision by Judge Arthur Engoron, who has already ruled that the former president inflated his wealth on financial statements that were given to banks, insurers and others to make deals and secure loans.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $370 million and a ban on Trump and other defendants from doing business in the state. A penalty like that could potentially wound the real estate empire that helped Trump craft his image as a savvy billionaire businessman and vaulted him to fame and the White House.

Engoron is set to rule after 2½ months of testimony from 40 witnesses, including Trump. Closing arguments were held Jan. 11. The judge is deciding the case because juries are not allowed in this type of lawsuit and neither James’ office nor Trump’s lawyers asked for one.

Engoron is expected to release his decision Friday, barring unforeseen circumstances that would necessitate a delay, court officials said.

It has already been a big week in court for Trump. On Thursday, a different New York judge ruled that Trump will stand trial March 25 on charges that he falsified his company’s records as part of an effort to buy the silence of people with potentially embarrassing stories about alleged infidelity. Trump says he is innocent.

If the schedule holds, it will be the first of his four criminal cases to go to trial.

Also Thursday, a judge in Atlanta heard arguments on whether to remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from Trump’s Georgia election interference case because she had a personal relationship with a special prosecutor she hired.

James’ office has estimated that Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion. State lawyers contend Trump used the inflated numbers to get lower insurance premiums and favorable loan terms, saving at least $168 million on interest alone.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and his lawyers have said they’ll appeal if Engoron rules against him.

The Republican presidential front-runner testified Nov. 6 that his financial statements actually understated his net worth and that banks did their own research and were happy with his business. During closing arguments in January, he decried the case as a “fraud on me.”

Engoron is deciding six claims in James’ lawsuit, including allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud. State lawyers alleged that Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion one year.

Before the trial, Engoron ruled on James’ top claim, finding that Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent. As punishment, the judge ordered some of his companies removed from his control and dissolved. An appeals court has put that on hold.


Attorney and prominent conservative media figure Jenna Ellis pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge over efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia, tearfully telling the judge she looks back on that time with “deep remorse.”

Ellis, the fourth defendant in the case to enter into a plea deal with prosecutors, was a vocal part of Trump’s reelection campaign in the last presidential cycle and was charged alongside the Republican former president and 17 others with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law.

Ellis pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. She had been facing charges of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, and soliciting the violation of oath by a public officer, both felonies.

She rose to speak after pleading guilty, fighting back tears as she said she would not have represented Trump after the 2020 election if she knew then what she knows now, claiming that she relied on lawyers with much more experience than her and failed to verify the things they told her.

“What I did not do but should have done, Your Honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were in fact true,” the 38-year-old Ellis said.

The guilty plea from Ellis comes just days after two other defendants, fellow attorneys Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, entered guilty pleas. That means three high-profile people responsible for pushing baseless legal challenges to Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory have agreed to accept responsibility for their roles rather than take their chances before a jury. A lower-profile defendant pleaded guilty last month.

Responding to a reporter’s shouted question in the hallway of a New York City courthouse, where a civil case accusing him of inflating the value of his assets is being held, Trump said he didn’t know anything about Ellis’ plea deal but called it “too bad” and said he wasn’t worried by it.

“Don’t know anything, we’re totally innocent of everything, that’s political persecution is all it is,” he said.

Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead attorney in the Georgia case, used Ellis’ plea to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the racketeering charges Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis brought against all 19 defendants.



An appeals court ordered the Dutch government on Monday to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, citing a clear risk of violations of international law.

A trio of human rights organizations brought a civil suit against the Netherlands in December, arguing authorities needed to reevaluate the export license in light of Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

“It is undeniable that there is a clear risk that the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law,” Judge Bas Boele said in reading out the ruling, eliciting cheers from several people in the courtroom.

The decision came as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte traveled to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the conflict. Rutte was also expected to separately meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government would appeal. “It is up to the state to shape its foreign policy,” Geoffrey van Leeuwen, the minister for foreign trade and development said in a statement. In the meantime, van Leeuwen said his office would abide by the export ban.

“We are extremely grateful that there is justice and that the court was willing to speak out on justice,” lead lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told reporters after the hearing.

Oxfam Novib, Pax Nederland and The Rights Forum filed the case in December. They argued the continued transfer of the aircraft parts makes the Netherlands complicit in possible war crimes being committed by Israel in its war with Hamas.

In January, a lower court sided with the government, allowing the Dutch to continue sending U.S.-owned parts stored at a warehouse in the town of Woensdrecht to Israel. The Netherlands is home to one of three F-35 European regional warehouses.

Other countries are also considering restricting weapons sales to Israel. Human rights groups in the United Kingdom have brought a similar suit against their government, attempting to block weapons exports to Israel.


A federal lawsuit filed over five years ago challenging North Carolina's new photo voter identification mandate is now set to go to trial in the spring, with an outcome that could possibly affect what people must do to cast ballots this fall.

The U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem announced on Monday that Judge Loretta Biggs will convene the nonjury trial starting May 6 over the law, which was implemented just last fall.

While the state's photo ID requirement remains in place for the March 5 primary elections, a spring or summer ruling after the trial by Biggs to strike down the law could threaten its use in the November general election in the nation's ninth-largest state. North Carolina will have races for governor, attorney general and many other statewide races on the fall ballots. Courts, however, can be cautious about changing voting rules close to an election to avoid confusion.

The May date is about three months later than the date that lawyers for the state NAACP and several local chapters had requested several months ago. They sued over the 2018 law claiming it is marred by racial bias.

Attorneys for Republican legislative leaders defending the law had told Biggs in writing that the trial schedule sought by the NAACP groups was deficient. They also said it allowed no opportunity for the judge to dismiss the case on arguments before going to a formal trial.

Biggs held a hearing in November about the trial date and whether the State Board of Elections should be required to provide more public records to the plaintiffs about how voter ID has been implemented since last year. In a separate order Monday, Biggs sent the plaintiff’s request to a magistrate judge to recommend a decision to her. That recommendation can be challenged.

After a state Supreme Court ruling last April upholding the 2018 law as legal, the photo ID mandate was carried out in mostly municipal elections in September, October and November.

The trial date order doesn't estimate how long the trial will last. But it sets aside three weeks after the trial for the sides to file more papers.

The federal lawsuit alleges that the ID law violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating disproportionately against Black and Latino voters to comply with the requirement. Republican lawmakers disagree and say the law builds public confidence in elections. They also point in part to a broader array of exceptions for people lacking an ID to still cast ballots when compared to an earlier voter ID law.

Previous trial dates for 2021 and 2022 were postponed. Biggs delayed one start date while the U.S. Supreme Court weighed her earlier refusal to allow GOP lawmakers to intervene in the case and defend the law in court. The U.S. justices sided with the legislative leaders in June 2022.

Biggs lifted her stay on action in the case last summer a few months after the state Supreme Court determined the mandate comported with state constitution.

In late 2019, Biggs issued a preliminary injunction blocking the 2018 voter ID law, saying it was tainted by racial bias largely because a previous voter ID law approved by legislators in 2013 had been struck down on similar grounds. The 2013 law was implemented briefly in 2016.


Former President Donald Trump arrived Monday morning at a federal courthouse in Florida for a closed hearing in his criminal case charging him with mishandling classified documents.

The hearing was scheduled to discuss the procedures for the handling of classified evidence in the case, which is currently set for trial on May 20. Trump faces dozens of felony counts accusing him of hoarding highly classified records at his Mar-a-Lago estate and obstructing FBI efforts to get them back.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon expects to hear arguments in the morning from defense lawyers and in the afternoon from prosecutors, each outside of the other’s presence.

“Defense counsel shall be prepared to discuss their defense theories of the case, in detail, and how any classified information might be relevant or helpful to the defense,” Cannon wrote in scheduling the hearing.

Trump’s motorcade arrived at the courthouse in Fort Pierce shortly after 9 a.m.

The hearing is one of several voluntary court appearances that Trump has made in recent weeks — he was present, for instance, at appeals court arguments last month in Washington — as he looks to demonstrate to supporters that he intends to fight the four criminal prosecutions he faces while also seeking to reclaim the White House this November.


Wall Street is drifting a bit higher Monday following its latest record-setting week.

The S&P 500 was up 0.2% in midday trading after closing Friday above the 5,000 level for the first time, its latest milestone in a record-setting run that began in October. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 57 points, or 0.1%, as of 11 a.m. Eastern time. The Nasdaq composite was 0.4% higher to pull within 0.1% of its record set in 2021.

Conditions are calm across markets, with yields also moving relatively little in the bond market. The next big event for the market could be Tuesday’s update on inflation across the United States, which economists expect to show a drop back below the 3% level.

In the meantime, Diamondback Energy climbed 10% after it said it would buy Endeavor Energy Resources in a deal valued at roughly $26 billion, including Endeavor’s debt. Diamondback is using both cash and stock to pay for the purchase of the privately held exploration and production company.

Trimble rose 4.8% after the technology provider reported stronger profit and revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected. The company, whose products are used in the construction, mapping and other industries, shook off an earlier loss after it also gave a forecast for revenue over 2024 that fell short of Wall Street’s estimates.

Big companies in the S&P 500 have mostly been reporting better results than expected for the final three months of 2023. More than two thirds of the companies in the index have already reported their results, but several big names are still to come this upcoming week. They include Coca-Cola on Tuesday, Kraft Heinz on Wednesday and Southern Co. on Thursday.

The smallest companies in the market, meanwhile, are still in the relatively early days of their profit reporting season. But they’ve been beating analysts’ expectations by even more than their big rivals, according to Bank of America strategists.

Worries have grown about how top-heavy the stock market has become, where the seven biggest companies have accounted for a disproportionate amount of the S&P 500’s rally to a record. If more companies aside from the group known as the “Magnificent Seven” can deliver strong profit growth, it could soften the criticism that the market has become too expensive.

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