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Judge acquits McHenry state’s attorney of official misconduct

McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi is hugged by supporters following his acquittal Tuesday official misconduct charges. | Janelle Walker~For

McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi is hugged by supporters following his acquittal Tuesday on official misconduct charges. | Janelle Walker~For Sun-TImes Media

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:45AM



WOODSTOCK — For the second time this year, Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw rendered a directed verdict of not guilty following an official misconduct trial for McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi.

In his verdict Tuesday, McGraw said that while he might not agree with every decision made by the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office, none of those decisions rose to the level of a criminal act.

The two-day trial was the second this year alleging misconduct by Bianchi while serving as state’s attorney, and the second to end with a directed verdict, meaning the defense did not have to present its case and the prosecution was unable to prove the allegations of official misconduct. McGraw also presided over the first trial in March.

Now that the second and last trial is over, Bianchi and his legal team will consider further legal action against his accusers, his attorney, Terry Ekl, told reporters and supporters outside the McHenry County Judicial Center.

Bianchi, 68, also spoke to reporters outside the courthouse, thanking his family for standing by him and his legal team for their work.

The results of the two trials should prove that the legal system works, he said.

“All those who are innocent and face reckless accusations should be confident in knowing that our system of justice does work and to keep faith and confidence during and through what often seems like the tedious and lengthy legal process,” he said.

Both trials stemmed from special prosecutors calling a grand jury to investigate allegations against Bianchi.

The first case arose from the arrest of a former Bianchi employee, Amy Dalby, who was charged in February 2009 with stealing documents from office computers and passing them along to supporters of a Bianchi political rival. Dalby’s attorney asked that a special prosecutor be appointed to probe her claims that she was required to do political work for Bianchi during office hours. Dalby in May 2009 pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation, but Henry Tonigan later was appointed as a special prosecutor to look into her allegations. Tonigan later asked to be removed from the case.

The grant jury returned 21 felony charges, including conspiracy and official misconduct. Bianchi was found not guilty of all those charges in March.

The second set of charges against Bianchi was approved by the grand jury shortly before the start of the first trial.

The new criminal counts against him alleged that in 2010, Bianchi ordered an assistant state’s attorney to persuade a victim in a pending disorderly conduct case to accept an apology from a defendant in return for dropping the case. The defendant and his relatives were campaign contributors, and he was associated with the defendant’s family through a pro-life organization, special prosecutor Thomas McQueen alleged during the trial.

A second count alleged that Bianchi ordered an assistant state’s attorney to lower the prison term, from five years to four, in a drug case involving a distant relative of investigator Ronald Salgado. Charges based on that allegation against Salgado and another investigator, Michael McCleary, were dropped prior to the trial.

Also dropped prior to the trial were charges that accused Bianchi, also in 2010, of ordering an assistant to delay a pending case against his nephew until a diversion program for first offenders was operating in the county.

In his argument Tuesday against a directed verdict, McQueen focused on whether Bianchi should have recused himself in any dealings with those who were related to or supported him politically. “He clearly should have known … he had plenty of times to solve this and recuse himself,” McQueen said.

He also argued that Bianchi’s actions violated the equal protection clause of the constitution because his friends and family were prosecuted less vigorously than those who were not.

He did not put on the stand anyone who could say he or she had gotten a raw deal because they were not associated with Bianchi, a fact McGraw alluded to in his verdict.



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