Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bianchi's Judge Received Payments from Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor

Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw, who last month ruled in favor of McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi in a swift directed verdict, has received $18,404 from the Illinois Office of the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) since 2005 according to state documents.

ILSAAP was created to provide services to state's attorneys including appellate cases, certain drug-related cases and special prosecutions.  (725 ILCS 210)  The entity's Board of Governors is comprised of nine state's attorneys from around the state.  At the time of this publication, a photo of Bianchi standing with ILSAAP executive staff and members of the Board of Governors is in rotation on the home page of the entity's website. 

McHenry County is currently represented by ILSAAP in oversight and objections of bills submitted by outside special prosecutors in the same cases McGraw presides.  resolution passed by the McHenry County Board in January reads that the county pays ILSAAP $30,000 annually for services to the office of the state's attorney.  

Vouchers and invoices of 
ILSAAP (listed under Agency 295) correlate with dates of training seminars for assistant state's attorneys where McGraw's name appears. Notations of "instructors fee" are found in documents for a dozen seminars; reimbursement of expenses is never mentioned. 

The most recent payment to McGraw was $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 David O'Connor of Orland Park on Oct. 25th -- three days after McGraw's first hearing involving Bianchi.

O'Connor was the special prosecutor specifically requested by Bianchi to investigate Amy Dalby, a former employee of the state's attorney's office and a key witness against Bianchi in the case before McGraw last month.  ILSAAP training seminars are coordinated by O’Connor who has had contracts renewed annually since 2007.

In September 2010, McGraw was appointed to preside over the combined 26 felony charges of conspiracy, misconduct and obstruction of justice by Bianchi and his secretary, Joyce Synek.  Bianchi opted for a bench trial in February.  Last month, McGraw declared Bianchi and Synek not guilty of all charges in an unusual directed verdict several hours after the prosecution rested their case and before the defense offered any evidence.  A second trial for additional felony charges against Bianchi and others is scheduled for June.

The Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct guides judges to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

ILSAAP has had an active, but mostly quiet, role with Bianchi off and on since October 2007 -- the same time it was discovered that Dalby had downloaded files from her county computer.  According to activity reports submitted to the state with invoices, ILSAAP's contracted media consultant had begun working extensively one-on-one with Bianchi starting Oct. 1, 2007.

The following month, Bianchi specifically requested that O’Connor be appointed the special prosecutor to investigate Dalby.  This appointment was made through O'Connor's private practice and did not involve ILSAAP.  State records show that while O'Connor was investigating and prosecuting Dalby, he was simultaneously under a $25,000 contract with ILSAAP to "design, develop and implement legal training formats for the Agency's capital litigation training programs".  (O'Connor's most recent contract with ILSAAP is $66,000.)

Dalby was eventually indicted with six felony charges and one misdemeanor related to the downloaded computer files.  Shortly after the indictment, Dalby told the media that she took the files to prove that she was asked to perform on-the-job political work.  Her felony charges were soon dropped and she subsequently filed a petition in 2009 seeking a special prosecutor to investigate Bianchi.  

ILSAAP was allowed to intervene on petitions filed by Dalby and another individual.  Public records show that ILSAAP special prosecutor Chuck Colburn attempted to have petitions against Bianchi dismissed in a hearing before Judge Gordon Graham on Sept. 4, 2009.  

ILSAAP continues to represent McHenry County in oversight and objections of bills submitted by Henry Tonigan of North Barrington and Tom McQueen of Chicago, appointed to investigate and prosecute Bianchi.  In February, Graham suggested that ex-parte (non-public) communication had taken place between ILSAAP and Bianchi's defense regarding the cost of special prosecutors, according to one report.

McHenryLeaks asks: 

What was the appointment process of Judge Joseph McGraw to the Bianchi case?

What were the event and date of the photo of Louis Bianchi taken with ILSAAP executive staff and members of the Board of Governors?

Following are documents involving ILSAAP (Agency 295) and Joseph McGraw.  To enlarge, click the image.