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Day in court postponed for former lawmaker who checked into hospital on eve of corruption trial

The Paul Findley Federal Courthouse in Springfield.
Capitol News Illinois photo by Hannah Meisel
The Paul Findley Federal Courthouse in Springfield.

On what was supposed to be the third morning of a weeklong corruption trial of former State Sen. Sam McCann, the onetime third-party candidate for governor instead videoconferenced into U.S. District Judge Colleen Lawless’ courtroom from his hospital bed.

McCann, who checked himself into Missouri Baptist Hospital in St. Louis after feeling unwell over the weekend, told the judge he didn’t know what medications he was on and didn’t want to say anything while drugged that might mislead her.

“I do not know that I can put a coherent thought together,” McCann said, eyes half-closed on the Zoom screen.

“Well, Mr. McCann, you are coherently speaking to me right now,” Lawless responded.

Read more: Indicted former lawmaker’s corruption trial up in the air after hospitalization forces delay

But the judge ultimately postponed the trial until next week, opting to forgo more incremental status hearings like the five that had already taken place since McCann failed to show up for his trial on Monday morning.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass voiced his concern that by delaying the trial further, it would “reward” McCann. The former lawmaker was already granted a 10-week postponement when he suddenly fired his court-appointed lawyers the morning his trial was scheduled to begin in late November, and announced he’d be representing himself.

“It’s our belief...this entire situation is self-created by the defendant,” Bass told Lawless. “He’s continuing to lie to you. He knows exactly what medications he’s on.”

McCann tried to interject on the Zoom meeting broadcast into the courtroom.

“That’s not true,” he said.

Lawless said she understood Bass’ position that a delay in the trial was the outcome McCann wanted but said she didn’t believe it was “in the interest of justice” to force McCann to show up to trial beginning Thursday after having been in the hospital for several days.

Bass had subpoenaed the hospital for McCann’s medical records and reiterated that most tests McCann underwent came back normal.

Bass was careful to not reveal any personal medical information in open court, though McCann told the judge on Tuesday that he was “hooked up to nitroglycerin and saline.” All signs indicated McCann would be discharged on Wednesday, Bass said.

Although Bass had suggested McCann be confined to his home after leaving the hospital – citing his unemployed status – and asked Lawless to check that McCann had no more firearms in his possession, the judge declined.

“I’m not asking the defendant any further questions while he’s in the hospital,” she said, instead saying Bass could file a motion to request both of those things.

McCann spent eight years in the General Assembly, most of that time as a Republican. But in 2018 he left the GOP he believed wasn’t conservative enough under then-Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. He then established the “Conservative Party” in Illinois and ran for governor on a third-party platform backed by organized labor – one of Rauner’s major foes.

Read more: Former GOP state Senator, Conservative Party candidate for governor indicted

Two years prior, McCann had gone toe-to-toe with Rauner in a battle over his Senate seat but won against the well-funded candidate the governor had backed against him.

During those election battles, McCann allegedly “engaged in a scheme to convert more than $200,000 in contributions and donations made to his campaign committees to pay himself and make personal purchases,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office at the time of his indictment.

McCann allegedly used some of that money to pay his mortgage and personal debts, buy personal vehicles, and even paid himself.

In addition to spending roughly $60,000 on a truck and SUV, McCann also allegedly purchased two recreational vehicles with campaign funds.

McCann sought to use those RVs as part of a scheme to channel campaign funds to himself through an Ohio RV rental business, according to the feds.

McCann also allegedly spent $50,000 in campaign funds on credit card payments related to a family vacation in Colorado and charges from Apple iTunes, Amazon, a skeet and trap club, Cabela’s, Scheels, Best Buy, a gun store and cash withdrawals.


Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.


Meisel works for Capitol News Illinois.