Saturday, May 14, 2011

State Agency or Prosecutorial Fraternity? ILSAAP Special Prosecutor Colburn Signed Motion Connected to Client of Bianchi's Attorney

Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Chuck Colburn Represents McHenry County in Fee Battle Against Bianchi's Special Prosecutors. In 2008, Colburn Signed Motion Which Might Have Served as Legal Protection for Client of Bianchi's Attorney.

Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) Special Prosecutor Charles Colburn, currently in an Appellate Court fee battle against the special prosecutors of the McHenry County State's Attorney, signed a motion in 2008 which may have served as legal protection of a client of Bianchi's attorney, Terry Ekl. 

This motion is related to an amicus curiae "friend of the court" brief prepared and unanimously approved by ILSAAP's Board of Governors last September supporting public payment of legal fees of the same client of Ekl's.

ILSAAP's highly-publicized motion to Nolle Prosequi Without Prejudice was for the release of Herb Whitlock who had been convicted 21 years earlier, along with Gordon "Randy" Steidl, for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads of Paris, ILThe granted motion, however, provided no finality for Whitlock; the State still asserts that he is under suspicion and requires additional investigation. 

By continuing to cast a cloud of doubt over Whitlock and Steidl, any other potential criminal defendant or defendants would consequently not be investigated. At the same time, the motion may have served as legal protection of defendants in wrongful conviction lawsuits. Finally, it restrained the public from guesswork: Who really was behind the murders?

There is speculation that the on-going threat of "investigations" may pressure Whitlock and Steidl to agree to a lower settlement in what could become one of the largest wrongful conviction lawsuits in Illinois history. Persisting "investigations" may also justify objections to exonerations and pardons which could also impact the outcome of these lawsuits.

"Prosecutors also have resisted exoneration of Steidl in the case. When he sought a pardon 'based on innocence' before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board in mid-2006, attorneys from the appellate prosecutor's office said they continued to investigate the case and any potential involvement by Steidl. Colburn said Friday that Steidl still is under investigation," wrote Chicago Tribune's Hal Dardick in "Freedom Granted, But Not Innocence," on Jan. 5, 2008.

Five days later, 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." 

James Sotos & Assoc. represents the City of Paris, IL in the Steidl/Whitlock lawsuits. Ekl also represents John Harris, star witness for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in the ongoing trial against former Governor Rod Blagojevich. 

Colburn's Recent History with McHenry County

Colburn has been involved in McHenry County legalities since March 2009 when ILSAAP intervened on the first petition calling for a special prosecutor to investigate Bianchi.

Chuck Keeshan noted in the Sept. 5, 2009 Daily Herald, “Assistant Appellate Prosecutor Charles Colburn at one point attempted to make what sounded to be a motion to throw out Dalby’s petition on the basis that any criminal acts would have occurred beyond a statute of limitations. (Judge) Graham, however, cut off Colburn before the argument got far.”

Last February, Graham reiterated to Colburn ILSAAP's role to represent McHenry County's financial interest, Pete Gonigam reported in First Electric Newspaper.  The article also discussed how ILSAAP received a copy of a court transcript and Graham's suggestion that ex-parte (non-public) communication had taken place. "Ekl later said the implication there was collusion between Bianchi and Colburn's office was 'Silly'." 

FEN mentioned Colburn's name as a possible replacement in the event of Ekl's success in firing the special prosecutors on behalf of Bianchi's supporters.

Colburn asked the Second District Appellate Court in April to overturn Graham's refusal to reduce payments to Bianchi's special prosecutors, Henry Tonigan and Thomas McQueen.

McHenryLeaks Asks:

At what point do these multiple associations move beyond happy coincidence to creating "even the appearance of impropriety"? 

Who does Colburn represent -- the people of Illinois or Bianchi's attorney's clients? Can Colburn ethically represent both?

Should ILSAAP distance itself from criminal and civil litigation of its state's attorneys and former state's attorneys, particularly when the Agency can use its own powers to impact the outcomes?

According to court records and numerous media reports, ILSAAP has been closely involved with the investigations and litigation involving Steidl and Whitlock. Surely they are aware of the defense attorneys with mutual interests? 

Is it ethical to hold the threat of "investigations" for years as leverage to protect interests in a wrongful conviction lawsuit? Will the "investigations" miraculously end once there is a settlement?

Following is the 2008 Motion to Nolle Prosequi Without Prejudice signed by ILSAAP special prosecutor Charles Colburn. To enlarge, click or double-click the image: