Seattle man acquitted of raping Sycamore teen 50 years ago
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org April 12, 2012 11:09AM
Former cop Jack Daniel McCullough has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old Sycamore girl 50 years ago.
Updated: May 14, 2012 8:13AM
Former cop Jack Daniel McCullough was “relieved to tears” after a DeKalb County judge acquitted him of raping a teenage relative 50 years ago, but her family and prosecutors were outraged.
Using unusually harsh language, State’s Attorney Clay Campbell blasted Judge Robbin Stuckert for both the acquittal and the reasons she cited for finding the 72-year-old McCullough not guilty of assaulting his half-sister, Jeanne Tessier.
“I have to candidly state here to you that I think that this was a miscarriage of justice,” Campbell said at a news conference after the verdict, which at one point he described as “appalling.”
Tessier — who claimed McCullough raped her at his Sycamore rooming house in 1962 when she was 14 years old — was not present for the verdict, but one of her sisters collapsed sobbing in the jammed courtroom upon hearing it. Another relative called out “bastard!” as deputies led away McCullough, who remains jailed while awaiting trial for the 1957 murder of a Sycamore girl, 7-year-old Maria Ridulph.
“We are very upset,” said Jeanne’s brother, Bob Tessier, as he stood with other family members outside the courthouse. “This is a travesty of justice, we feel.”
The white-haired, stocky McCullough sat calmly as the verdict was read, but his attorney said later he was “very emotional.”
“He’s relieved to tears,” Public Defender Regina Harris said.
As she delivered her verdict, Stuckert repeatedly noted that Jeanne Tessier could provide few details about the alleged attack, including even recalling the month it occurred or describing the Sycamore rooming house where she said she was assaulted by McCullough and two of his roommates.
But Stuckert also criticized prosecutors for not questioning Tessier about why she waited until 2009 to first report the alleged assault — which she did only when being interviewed for a second time by police about the Ridulph murder.
“The court is asked to ignore the fact she waited 48 years to report this,” Stuckert said.
Campbell contended prosecutors tried during pre-trial hearings to win permission to provide information about actions McCullough allegedly took against Jeanne Tessier and other family members to explain why she didn’t immediately report the alleged abuse.
Stuckert, though, ruled that information couldn’t be presented at the trial, Campbell said.
“The court specifically chastised the state’s attorney’s office for not asking questions of witnesses that we were barred by the court’s rulings from asking,” Campbell said.
He also contended Tessier’s claims were bolstered by a Washington State woman who testified she was assaulted by McCullough in 1982 when she was a teenager. McCullough pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in that case.
“It was a terrible slight to these victims who came into this court and told their story,” Campbell said of the acquittal.
McCullough’s attorney said he was found not guilty largely because of the lack of detail provided by Tessier and other witnesses.
“The strength of my case was the lack of details in any portion of the state’s case,” Harris said.
Stuckert is scheduled to preside over McCullough’s murder trial, though Campbell wouldn’t comment on whether he would seek to have the case switched to another judge.
But legal experts said that won’t be an easy task, even though he’s unhappy with Thursday’s verdict.
“You don’t get a new judge because she ruled against you in another case,” said Leonard Cavise, a law professor at DePaul University. “I don’t think it’s going to happen unless you can show she has an actual bias.”
Despite Thursday’s acquittal, Harris still expects prosecutors to try McCullough for Ridulph’s kidnapping and murder.
“It doesn’t affect the trial of that case,” Harris said.