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Judge again acquits McHenry state’s attorney of misconduct

McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi is hugged by supporters after his acquittal. | Janelle Walker~For Sun-TImes Media

McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi is hugged by supporters after his acquittal. | Janelle Walker~For Sun-TImes Media

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Updated: November 2, 2011 6:24PM

Acquitted for the second time on corruption charges, McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi is now considering legal action against his accusers, his attorney, Terry Ekl, said Tuesday.

Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw said Tuesday while he might not agree with every decision made by Bianchi’s office, none of the decisions rose to the level of a criminal act.

The two-day trial was the second this year alleging misconduct by Bianchi, and the second to end with a directed verdict, meaning McGraw ruled prosecutors were unable to prove their case without Bianchi even having to mount a defense.

Bianchi, 68, spokes 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.

A former Bianchi employee, Amy Dalby, was charged in February 2009 with stealing documents from office computers and passing them along to supporters of a Bianchi 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 a special prosecutor was appointed to look into her allegations.

A grand jury indicted Bianchi on 21 felony charges, including conspiracy and official misconduct, alleging he had employees do political chores on county time.

In March, McGraw acquitted Bianchi of those charges, though a second indictment had been returned the month before, leading to this week’s trial.

Those charges centered on allegations 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 argued.

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

Also dropped before the trial were charges that Bianchi ordered an assistant to delay a pending case against his nephew until a diversion program for first offenders was operating in the county.

McQueen argued 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 friends and family were prosecuted less vigorously than those who were not, though he did not present any witnesses who could say they got a raw deal because they were not associated with Bianchi, a fact McGraw alluded to in his verdict.

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