State Senator Suzi Schmidt arrested in Lake County in neighbor spat
BY MICHAEL LANSU, DAN ROZEK AND DAVE MCKINNEY Staff Reporters June 12, 2012 6:43PM
Lake County Sheriff's office mugshot of State Senator Suzi Schmidt, charged with two count misdemeanor criminal damage to property and criminal trespass to property.
Updated: July 14, 2012 6:43AM
State Sen. Suzi Schmidt, who dropped her bid for reelection after 911 tapes put her dysfunctional marriage on public display, was arrested Tuesday for trespassing on her neighbor’s property and angrily ripping up a bag of feed and spreading it around, authorities said.
Schmidt, the former chairman of the Lake County Board, has been barred from contact with her neighbor. The alleged incident, which involves either bird or deer food, happened last week, authorities said.
Schmidt was charged with one count of misdemeanor criminal damage to property and misdemeanor criminal trespass to property, according to the Lake County sheriff¹s office.
Sheriff’s deputies served an emergency stalking no contact order preventing her from having contact with her neighbor, according to sheriff’s police.
Lake County Sheriff’s police Chief Wayne S. Hunter said police went out to her home near Lake Villa last week, but didn’t serve the arrest warrant until 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, when Schmidt was taken into custody without incident in the 6600 block of Grand Avenue in Gurnee.
The warrant said Schmidt damaged her neighbor’s “feed bag,” which was valued at less than $300, Hunter said.
She already had been warned by her neighbors to stay out of their yard, Hunter said.
Schmidt was arrested about 5:15 p.m. at a Gurnee Menard’s store after a sheriff’s deputy recognized her car — which includes a legislative license plate — parked outside, he said.
She was released from custody Tuesday evening after posting $500 bail.
An open hatchback with shopping bags in the back of a car was in her driveway Tuesday evening. A neighboring car had legislative license plates. No one answered repeated knocks to home’s door.
Last November, Schmidt, a Republican, announced she wouldn’t seek re-election in the wake of the fallout from news reports regarding the 911 tapes.
Schmidt had said earlier that month she would stay in the race and seek re-election. But she faced long odds to retain her seat after a series of recordings were released by the Lake County sheriff’s office involving reports of domestic disturbances called in to police by her husband, Bob Schmidt.
On Christmas Day 2010, Sen. Schmidt called 911 and implored a dispatcher not to respond to her husband if he called the emergency number, reminding the dispatcher she once had been the Lake County Board chairman. She also said her husband feared her because “he knows I have connections.”
On a 911 call her husband made during another fight, on Sept. 26, 2011, Schmidt can be heard in the background admitting she had bitten him. At first, she denied doing it but later is heard saying: “You bet I did.”
Neither Schmidt nor her husband ever was charged as a result of any of the calls.
In the aftermath of those disclosures, Schmidt clung to the possibility she could put the dispute behind her and remain politically viable, issuing a public apology, announcing she intended to seek counseling and stating she planned to keep circulating nominating petitions.
Schmidt’s arrest makes her the second sitting member of the General Assembly to be embroiled in an ongoing criminal proceeding.
State Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) was arrested in March as part of an undercover FBI sting that allegedly nabbed him accepting a $7,000 bribe in exchange for writing a letter of support on behalf of a purported daycare operator seeking a $50,000 state grant. Charged with bribery, Smith faces possible expulsion from the Illinois House.
News of Schmidt’s arrest traveled quickly in political circles, with one senior party official saying privately that this latest development warrants Schmidt’s resignation and harms GOP efforts to hold on to the Lake County Senate seat now being fought for by Republican Joe Neal and Democrat Melinda Bush.
“Her entire situation is just tragic,” said Neal, the GOP nominee who won his primary with Schmidt’s backing. “I have no comment on whether she should resign or anything beyond that at this point.”
State Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills), chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party, said Schmidt’s arrest — after the regret she expressed for her conduct in the 911 recordings — is jolting.
“The thing that surprises me is she did what she did with the 911 and all of that, and I know Suzi has repeatedly said to me she regrets that she did that, that she wishes she could take those words back,” Link said. “Doing something like this, well, it surprises me something like this could happen.”
Link said he did not think Schmidt’s arrest, based on the scant information released by the sheriff’s office, would be enough to warrant action under Senate rules to launch disciplinary proceedings akin to what Smith is facing in the House.
“She didn’t embezzle anything. She didn’t steal anything. I don’t think this is a Derrick Smith type of thing,” he said.
Contributing, Stefano Esposito