Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Ethically, I cannot investigate the sheriff"

This afternoon McHenry County State Attorney Lou Bianchi took the stand in the case before Judge Meyer that involves a petition for a special prosecutor to investigate McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren.

Before the case began, Mr. Bianchi made an unsworn statement to the court that he represents the sheriff and cannot investigate, indict or prosecute the sheriff. To do so would subject him to risk of being disbarred. I was grateful to Mr. Bianchi for speaking clearly and in full voice. I could hear him. Thank you!

Mr. Bianchi stated that it would be unethical for him to investigate, indict or prosecute the sheriff, because the sheriff is, by law, his client. To do so would likely result in disbarment of Mr. Bianchi.

Because that statement was unsworn, when the case started, Blake Horwitz, attorney for Zane Seipler, the Petitioner in the case, began asking questions of Mr. Bianchi. To all questions about whether Mr. Bianchi would investigate, indict or prosecute the sheriff, Mr. Bianchi answered that "Ethically, I cannot..."

At one point William Caldwell, attorney for McHenry County in this case, told Judge Meyer that he couldn't hear. Mr. Caldwell had been seated at one of the lawyers' tables. The judge ordered the bailiff to move the podium and allowed the lawyers to speak from the seated positions into the microphones that amplified their voices in the courtroom.

Imagine that! A working sound system in the courtroom. I wonder what would happen, if I said I couldn't hear the mumbling and low voices of attorneys and the judge and witnesses. I'd probably get tossed out of the court or, worse, I might get found in Contempt of Court and get a visit in Hotel Nygren. Don't the judges understand that spectators in the courtroom want to hear? We don't just show up for a place to sit down on a nice afternoon.

Blake Horwitz showed Mr. Bianchi letters that he had written to and received from Mr. Bianchi. Mr. Bianchi acknowledged that he had not (actually) written the response (himself) and that someone in his office had signed his name. But there was no statement that it was not his letter or that it had been improperly signed. Certainly, it's not uncommon for a subordinate to draft a letter or for a secretary to be authorized to sign for her boss.

Some of the questions from Blake Horwitz were about a seven-point star, a five-point star, using the star (badge) for political purposes, using public funds for political purposes, transportation for a trip to Mexico, solicitation of murder by the sheriff, something (couldn't hear) involving illegal aliens, something involving Jose Rivera and fraudulent loan documents, fraudulent motor vehicle violations.

Mr. Bianchi's response was that it would be unethical for him to investigate Sheriff Keith Nygren.

The County's attorney in this case, William Caldwell, hammered at his own client, Lou Bianchi, almost in an argumentative manner, trying to put the focus on whether Bianchi was physically available to investigate, indict or investigate Nygren (not whether he was ethically "unavailable" to do so).

Judge Meyer took a break, and those hanging around hoped to hear a decision this afternoon. Instead, all will have to wait until April 25 at 10:00AM for Judge Meyer's decision.

My money? I'll bet that Judge Meyer rules that Lou Bianchi is not available to investigate Nygren (ethics are a nasty issue, aren't they?) and will approve appointment of a special prosecutor. It's about time. The original Petition was filed January 13, 2010. Lou Bianchi is an ethical man. Of course, he can't defend the sheriff one day, investigate, indict and prosecute him the next.

If Judge Meyer appoints a special prosecutor, will Nygren quickly resign (retire?) and hope the investigation never happens? If he tries that trick, the County Board should refuse to accept his resignation and put him on unpaid leave. And if he retires, which he is eligible to do, that should not impede any investigation.

The allegations are too great to vanish. Give him his due. Investigate fully. If all allegations are unfounded, say so, and give him a green light to head for Florida.

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