Sunday, February 16, 2014

It ain't over 'til it's over

This case really is a big deal! Every voter in McHenry County should be aware of it and should be reading all about it. What case is that?

The case of FirstElectricNewspaper (FEN) against Sheriff Nygren and the McHenry County Sheriff's Department over the 100-page "investigation" about whether Undersheriff Andy Zinke did anything wrong, when he blew a confidential DEA investigation by telling Brian Goode, President of RITA Corporation in Crystal Lake, that a truckload of illegal drugs was headed to RITA from Texas.

Sgt. John Koziol (MCSD) was so mad about Zinke's disclosure that he filed a complaint in McHenry County Circuit Court. The reaction of the DEA Agent-in-Charge was priceless. And candid. And believable.

FEN filed a FOIA Request with the MCSD for the report, which Nygren claims exonerates Zinke. Duhhh... what else would it say? Nygren put MCSD Legal Affairs Officer (a newly created and unnecessary position at MCSD) Don Leist in charge. Leist interviewed two people on tape and may never have had those interviews transcribed. No doubt he talked to some other people. Maybe he even interviewed Zinke.

If Leist interviewed Zinke the way that some MCSD detectives interview people (I have a specific case in mind), it probably went something like this:

Leist: "Come on in, Andy. Want some coffee?"
Zinke: "Thanks, Don. How have you been?"
Leist: "You didn't do anything wrong, did you, Andy?"
Zinke: "No."
Leist: "OK, thanks. You can take your coffee with you."

MCSD denied FEN's FOIA request. FEN filed a Request for Review (appeal) with the Public Access Bureau of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. The Bureau told MCSD to release the report. Nygren jumped on his soapbox and probably uttered something like, "Make me!"

So FEN filed the court action. And on and on it goes. Nygren must be desperate to keep the report hidden at least until after the March 18th Primary. But, if Zinke is squeaky clean, why not say so?

Pete Gonigam, publisher of FEN, was back in court last Friday. Read his story about Friday's court here. But here's a teaser to get you to the whole story:

(You may recall, if you have been following the story, that Judge Meyer admonished Don Leist a while back that he was not the sheriff's attorney (the McHenry County State's Attorney office is) and that he (Leist) was not to speak at the bench, although he could stand there.)

From the FEN article on February 15: "Sheriff's Office Legal Affairs Officer Don Leist, apparent Svengali to (Assistant State's Attorney Brandi) Quance's evident Trilby, was frustrated.  While Meyer was momentarily in chambers, Leist sputtered at Gardner, "You're the one trying to influence the election.  You and your client."

"Meyer's security officer threatened to throw him out of the courtroom if he didn't behave. 'You can't bait people here, Mr. Leist,' he said."

FEN believes that the sheriff's department gave a copy of the report to the Northwest Herald, and FEN's attorney, Mary Gardner, is out to prove it.

There is one way to find out: Put Nygren, Zinke, Leist and MCSD Public Information Officer Aimee Knop (and maybe some other MCSD employees) on the stand - all out of hearing of one another. Ask each one, and don't let the others hear the answers. Put several Northwest Herald employees on the stand, and ask them - separately.

Somebody will tell truth. Someone will be afraid to get caught lying. Perjury is worse than leaking a sensitive document to a newspaper.

One problem, of course, is the amount of time that will take. There are rules, right? And one of them, most lawyers (but not all) know is, "You never ask a question in court to which you don't already know the answer."

Another priceless exchange occurred in court. Gonigam wrote, "Meyer asked Quance why he should stop the whole case.  Her answer was an extended silence."

How long should Judge Meyer have waited? Until she answered.

My favorite court case in Richmond, Va. included both of these issues: a question asked in court to which the attorney did not know the answer, and a judge who did wait for an answer. I'll write about this on another day.

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