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Ex-Illinois senator McCann’s fraud trial delayed again, but drops plan to represent himself

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday further delayed the wire fraud and money laundering trial of William “Sam” McCann, a former candidate for Illinois governor, after McCann declared he was “medically and psychologically” unable to proceed and dropped his plan to represent himself.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Lawless didn’t buy the self-diagnosis of the ex-lawmaker, who was hospitalized last week with chest pains and fainting spells but discharged on Wednesday. But after a second conference with his so-called standby attorney, Jason Vincent, McCann indicated he wanted Vincent to take over and the judge granted a one-day extension to allow Vincent to confirm a defense strategy with his client.

McCann, a former Republican state senator from Plainview who waged a 2018 third-party conservative campaign for governor, was indicted in February 2021 by former U.S. Attorney John Milhiser, who was appointed by then-President Donald Trump. McCann faces seven counts of wire fraud and single counts of money laundering and tax evasion for allegedly converting hundreds of thousands of dollars of political campaign contributions to personal use.

In response to questioning by Lawless, McCann, who has been held in a nearby county jail since his personal recognizance bond was revoked last Friday, said he had fallen overnight and was found by jailers early this morning.

“You ask me if I feel ready, no. I’m standing here in prison clothes, I fell and hit my head in the front and the back, I have severe angina, but I’ll adhere to whatever you say,” McCann said. “I don’t feel medically or psychologically able to proceed.”

The 54-year-old McCann, who entered the courtroom in a wheel chair, was hospitalized last week after passing out and complaining of chest pains, delaying the scheduled Feb. 5 start to his trial. This was after Lawless granted him a 60-day extension last November when he dismissed his lawyers and announced he wanted to represent himself.

He was discharged last Wednesday after doctors found no problems with his heart. He told Lawless Monday he was uncertain of what medications he had been prescribed and had very little memory of events that occurred after his discharge, including driving himself to Springfield on Friday when his parole was revoked.

“From the beginning, I have tried to give you an opportunity to represent yourself, to comply with court orders, to be forthcoming with information and to be honest with the court,” Lawless said. “Now you’re telling me you drove here Friday and don’t remember it and don’t know why you don’t remember it?”

McCann blamed the loss of memory on not having access in the jail to several medications, including duloxetine, an antidepressant for which medical literature recommends dosages be stepped down rather than stopped cold. But the government pointed out that U.S. Marshals Service officers obtaining McCann’s medications for his jail stay learned McCann had not taken duloxetine for two months.

“All of his actions indicate he is coherent and fully mentally capable of going about whatever business he has except when he’s before your honor,” assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass told Lawless. “You have bent over backward to ensure he has a fair trial, but respectfully, at some point you have to say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Bass did not object to a day’s delay to assist Vincent’s preparation to take over McCann’s defense. Vincent said he was familiar with evidence in the case but needed time to discuss trial technicalities, potential witnesses and how to cross-examine them and other ways McCann can assist him.

John O’connor, The Associated Press

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