Thursday, August 4, 2011

Could Illinois Supreme Court's Reasoning Behind "In Re DOMINIQUE F" Nullify the Latest Decision on Louis Bianchi?

Winnebago County Circuit Judge Joseph McGraw ruled another swift directed verdict in the second bench trial of McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi this week for official misconduct charges. This follows McGraw's first directed verdict in the trial held last March favoring McHenry County's top law enforcer.

Directed verdicts, considered unusual to occur even once, allowed Bianchi defense attorney Terry Ekl to win both trials without presenting any evidence.

Special prosecutors Henry Tonigan and Thomas McQueen have the option to appeal McGraw's latest decision. Should they decide to press forward, they could object to McGraw's refusal to step down last April when the judge's impartiality was questioned. A successful appeal would nullify McGraw's acquittal of Bianchi this week, regardless of any merits of his decision. Double jeopardy would not apply, as the trial would be a nullity.

To date, special prosecutors have given no indication of appealing.

McHenryLeaks was the first outlet to publish that McGraw had received roughly $20,000 from the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) in recent years for instructing seminars. Multiple potential conflicts of interest with those associated with Bianchi and ILSAAP have been discovered by McHenryLeaks in government records, many of which have never been addressed in mainstream news. (Click titles in sidebars on the right.)

McGraw received $3,125 for services from Oct. 25 - 29, 2010, the same dates of ILSAAP's "Basic Trial Advocacy Program" held in Springfield.  The course schedule of this training seminar found on ILSAAP's website shows that McGraw was part of a three-person panel discussion on pre-trial motions with Amy Dalby's prosecutor, David O'Connor of Orland Park,  on Oct. 25th -- three days after McGraw's first hearing involving Bianchi. Dalby was a key witness in Bianchi's first trial.

McQueen motioned last April that McGraw recuse himself as he had been paid by the same state agency that was involved in other aspects of Bianchi's case. McGraw denied the request stating that there was no quid pro quo asked for, expected or received. The Chicago Tribune reported, "'These accusations,' ...McGraw said, 'when considered in context, do not create even the appearance of impropriety.'"

Friday, June 24, 2011

Below the Radar in Edgar County -- Mutual Interests of Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor and Others Working in McHenry County on High-Profile Cases

Same January 2008 Day ILSAAP Media Consultants Met Quietly with McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi in Itasca, Another Fire was Burning Down State -- the Release of Herb Whitlock from Prison. Whitlock's Ongoing Cases of Interest to Same People Working Now in McHenry County on High-Profile Cases.

Late in 2007, the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP), the Agency's contracted media consultants, and DuPage County defense attorneys Terry Ekl and James Sotos had mutual interests in a white-haired man sitting in a cell in the Danville Correction Center.

Herb Whitlock, after serving 21 years in prison for the murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads of Paris, IL, was about to be released. A 53-page decision by the 4th District Illinois Appellate Court was unanimous in granting a new trial for Whitlock, ruling that evidence favorable to his defense had been suppressed. The deadline for ILSAAP special prosecutors Chuck Colburn and Michael Vujovich to pull together a new trial was quickly approaching.

Minutes from the Dec. 5, 2007 ILSAAP Board of Governors meeting mentioned that Vujovich had traveled with Illinois State Police officers to Orlando to meet with a key witness not previously interviewed regarding the 1986 double homicide. ILSAAP special prosecutors David Rands and Ed Parkinson would be consulting because of their previous involvement in the case.

On Jan. 4, 2008, ILSAAP filed a highly-publicized Motion to Nolle Prosequi Without Prejudice for the release of Whitlock, signed by Colburn and Vujovich. While it provided freedom, there was no finality. The motion charged that Whitlock remained under suspicion and required additional investigation. Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune referred to ILSAAP's motion as "peevish" and "a shot of slime." "The idea that prosecutors still need more time to investigate one of the most investigated and repeatedly re-investigated crimes in state history is nonsense," he wrote. 

Widespread press quotes of Colburn and Vujovich on the prisoner's release reinforced ILSAAP's stand that Whitlock and his former co-defendant, Gordon "Randy" Steidl were perpetual suspects. 

Among the numerous media outlets reporting the special prosecutors' remarks was the Terre Haute Tribune Star. It quoted Vujovich: "Two people were viciously murdered and we are still committed to getting to the bottom of this case. We have always believed that the two suspects that were convicted -- Mr. Steidl and Mr. Whitlock -- were responsible for the death of those two individuals."

Together, ILSAAP's motion and press quotes may have later served as protection for a defendant or defendants in wrongful conviction lawsuits represented by Ekl and Sotos, as well as deflecting attention from other potential suspects -- suspects Whitlock and Steidl claim had motive.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bianchi in Daily Herald's Campaign Forum the Day After Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor "Game Changers" Provided Press Assistance

ILSAAP "Game Changers" Met with McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi in Third Itasca Visit About "Press-Related Issues" the Day Before Two-Hour Grilling by Daily Herald's Editorial Board in Campaign Forum with Primary Opponent. Also Approximate Date Special Prosecutors Charged that Bianchi Had Met with His Office Managers to Prepare Him for Same Endorsement Meeting; Bianchi Later Acquitted.

Reverse Spin, contracted media consultants for the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP), "met with McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi and several other individuals in Itasca about various press-related issues within his office" on Jan. 8, 2008 -- the day before a scheduled campaign endorsement forum by Daily Herald newspaper's editorial board, according to the vendor's activity report submitted with an invoice charging the Agency.

Coincidentally, Jan. 7 was the approximate date special prosecutors Henry Tonigan and Thomas McQueen charged that Bianchi had met with the state's attorney's office managers to prepare him for an election endorsement meeting with the Daily Herald newspaper; Bianchi was later acquitted. The media consultants had stated that they had also talked several times to Bianchi during this period. (See timeline below)

The newspaper's endorsement was a concern for the state's attorney. Bianchi had been recently criticized for alleged political activity at the government office and for excessive reimbursement requests for meals and treats for himself and staff on the tax-payer's dime. Local law enforcement were backing his opponent, Dan Regna. Several weeks after the forum, the Daily Herald published its endorsement for Regna.

Monday, June 6, 2011

ILSAAP "Game Changers" Activity in McHenry & Winnebago Counties in November 2007...Crossing the Line?

November 2007 activity reports from the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) raise questions as to the nature of "extensive" contracted media consultation performed for McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi and former Winnebago County State's Attorney Phil Nicolosi.

Curry Public Strategies of Wheaton secured a nine-month contract with ILSAAP starting the previous month, which was to include assisting state's attorneys on crisis management advice on high profile cases. These consultants would later morph into Reverse Spin and describe themselves as political "operatives" and "game changers".

"In November 2007," the consultants reported, "I consulted extensively with two State's Attorneys -- by phone, email and in person."

No ILSAAP work product of the media consultants is available that month. By correlating dates and events listed in activity reports with media stories published at the time, however, there is potential that some of their tax-paid services may have overlapped into political and/or personal legal matters of state's attorneys and candidates Bianchi and Nicolosi.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Meanwhile...Down in Kane County, Unpublished ILSAAP Ties in Ongoing Prosecution of Coroner Chuck West

Former Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti Has Served on the Board of Governors of the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor and Has Earned $31,400 from the Agency Since 2007. Said Appointed Attorneys Chuck Colburn and David O'Connor Would Be "Independent" and "Avoid Conflict of Interest" in Ongoing Prosecution of Kane County Coroner Chuck West.

In purported efforts to avoid conflicts of interest, potentially worse conflicts of interest were created when two men associated with the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) were appointed to engage in adversarial roles in the ongoing prosecution of County Coroner Chuck West.

Former Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti, appointed to the 16th Judicial Circuit last December, turned over the investigation of West's alleged misconduct to ILSAAP special prosecutor Chuck Colburn in October 2009, as the state's attorney's office represents the coroner's office. 

Barsanti referred to this transfer as "independent" and avoiding a "conflict of interest" in quotes to the local media.

From 2008 through 2010, Barsanti was serving on the ILSAAP Board of Governors; minutes show Barsanti and Colburn attending the same Board meetings. Prior to being elected state's attorney in 2004, Barsanti had served as an ILSAAP special prosecutor for four years. 

State records also affirm that Barsanti has been paid $31,400 from ILSAAP since 2007; much of it shown as instructor's fees for seminars. (See all vouchers following article)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bianchi a Top Media Priority of Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor Starting October 2007

ILSAAP Began "Extensive" Contracted Media Consulting for McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi on Oct. 1, 2007. Two Days Later, Bianchi's Chief Investigator and Campaign Manager Received Phone Call from "An Unnamed Informant" About Former Employee's Transferred Computer Files.

The Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) began extensive, but quiet, contracted media consulting for McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi starting Oct. 1, 2007, according to an activity report submitted by Curry Public Strategies of Wheaton who would later describe themselves as "game changers".

Two days after the consulting kicked off, "an unnamed informant" phoned the state's attorney chief investigator Ron Salgado that a female employee "close to Bianchi" had transferred office computer files onto a jump or zip drive, accounts the article Daily Herald's Chuck Keeshan wrote after examining court records, "Bianchi's Office Knew of Files". Salgado was also Bianchi's campaign manager.

The first week of August 2007, Woodstock attorney Dan Regna announced his candidacy to unseat Bianchi in the upcoming primary. He criticized the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office, “labeling it a ‘political command post’ for Bianchi and his top advisors".

Three weeks later, a special meeting of the ILSAAP Board of Governors held in Springfield included a detailed discussion of contracting Curry Public Strategies, led by Board Vice Chairman Joe Birkett. Citizens to Elect Joe Birkett had paid the consultants over $55,000 for campaign communications prior to this discussionThe Board unanimously voted for the contract three weeks later following a presentation of the firm's proposal. 

Board minutes reported a remark from Curry Public Strategies' proposal made several weeks before the assistance began in McHenry County"Occasionally, a state's attorney knows something bad is coming out, or something is going to be portrayed as bad will come out...in that event the tactic to be used may be to aggressively pre-empt the prospective bad publicity by putting a positive spin on the case."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ILSAAP Vice Chairman Joe Birkett Steered Agency Contracts to His Political "Game Changer" Consultants

While serving as vice chairman of the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) Board of Governors, Illinois Second District Appellate Court Justice Joe Birkett advocated two annual Agency contracts in 2007 and 2008 for his political "game changer" consultants who then provided him with extensive one-on-one tax-paid work.

ILSAAP contracted Reverse Spin of Wheaton from January 2008 through June 2009 for media consulting. Reverse Spin is co-owned by Dan Curry and John Pearman, self-dubbed as "game changers". From October through December 2007, the state agency had contracted with Reverse Spin's predecessor, Curry Public Strategies

According to detailed Board minutes, these contracts were ushered in by the ILSAAP vice chairman. Activity reports submitted to ILSAAP with invoices show Reverse Spin devoted considerable one-on-one tax-paid time with their political clients -- DuPage County State's Attorney Birkett and McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi. 


Yet, the political consultants' campaign work for Birkett was never brought up in the copious minutes as a potential conflict of interest in the initial 2007 contract or its renewal the following year.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shadowy Illinois State's Attorneys Association Filed Amicus Curiae Brief for Client of Bianchi's Attorney

Association Closely Affiliated with State Agency Representing McHenry County in Illinois Appellate Court Case Objecting Payment to Bianchi's Special Prosecutors Recently Supported Public Payment of Legal Fees for Ekl's Client -- Former Edgar County State's Attorney -- by Filing "Friend of the Court" Brief

The Illinois State's Attorneys Association filed an an amicus curiae "friend of the court" brief on Sept. 22, 2010 supporting public payment of legal fees for former Edgar County State's Attorney Michael McFatridge involved in ongoing high-profile federal civil lawsuits, represented by Terry Ekl, according to court documents.

Ekl is also the attorney for McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi. Bianchi was indicted ten days prior to this filing.

Board minutes report that the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) Board of Governors unanimously approved the filing of this brief by the Association, a non-profit corporation closely affiliated with ILSAAP apparently not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Political Campaigns of Bianchi and Birkett Paid Media Consultants Contracted by Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor

ILSAAP "Game Changers" Provided Extensive One-On-One Tax-Paid Consulting to Their Political Clients -- Louis Bianchi & ILSAAP Vice Chairman Joe Birkett. 

While under contract for media consulting for the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP), Reverse Spin of Wheaton was paid for campaign work for McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi and former DuPage County State's Attorney/ILSAAP Board of Governors Vice Chairman Joe Birkett.

ILSAAP contracted Reverse Spin from January 2008 through June 2009 for media consulting. Reverse Spin is co-owned by Dan Curry and John Pearman, self-dubbed as "game changers". (From October through December 2007, the state agency had contracted with Reverse Spin's predecessor, Curry Public Strategies.) 

According to activity reports submitted to ILSAAP, Reverse Spin also devoted considerable one-on-one tax-paid time with these two political clients -- especially Bianchi. It remains unknown what project at Bianchi's office required the urgent and extensive work of an ILSAAP media consultant starting Oct. 1, 2007.

In 2008, the Committee to Re-Elect Louis Bianchi paid Reverse Spin $5,500 -- $2,500 for media production for the primary election and $3,000 for consultation and materials. In 2008 and 2009, Citizens to Elect Joe Birkett had paid Reverse Spin $49,500 for consulting. Birkett announced his bid for Illinois attorney general in July 2009, then pulled out of the race one month later.