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Judge watched porn on courthouse computer, investigation alleges

Will County Judge Joseph Polileaves Will County Court House Wednesday afternoApril11 2012. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Will County Judge Joseph Polito, leaves the Will County Court House Wednesday afternoon, April11, 2012. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 15, 2012 6:06AM



Instead of deliberating law, a 69-year-old Will County judge spent time deliberating the next pornographic website to visit on the computer in his judicial chambers, a state probe spurred by a Sun-Times investigation alleged Friday.

The State of Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, in a complaint filed Friday, alleged that Judge Joseph C. Polito “frequently” used his courthouse computer to access porn during work hours, violating the Code of Judicial Conduct and bringing disrepute to his office.

When the county’s web filter blocked his attempts, “he typically returned to Internet search engines and clicked on search results until he succeeded in bypassing the computer blocking software and ultimately accessed a pornographic website,” the complaint alleged.

“Specifically ... [Polito] used his Will County issued work computer to access pornographic websites either in the morning before his court call or afternoon after his court call,” according to the board’s complaint, filed with the Illinois Court Commission.

The Courts Commission will hold hearings and allow Polito the opportunity to defend himself before deciding on any disciplinary action, including termination.

Polito couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. He declined to talk to a Sun-Times reporter earlier this year about the allegations. A bailiff who polices Polito’s courtroom said at the time the judge “is not available” for comment.

In April, the Sun-Times published a story about the porn sites linked to Polito’s Will County computer. The paper dubbed him “Judge Lewdy” on the front page, and he was transferred the next day from divorce court to a courtroom that hears building code enforcement and mental health cases.

Will County Judge Richard C. Schoenstedt said he moved Polito after reading the Sun-Times. “Given the content of the article, it just seemed to make sense,” Schoenstedt said at the time.

In divorce court, Polito would have had to handle “court calls that by their nature are adversarial and where the issue of gender is often central,” Schoenstedt said.

The Sun-Times last year sought public county records showing which computer log-ins had been blocked from accessing off-limit sites.

Tens of thousands of attempts to visit inappropriate websites — typically social networking, chat and shopping sites — are automatically blocked and logged in Will County government every month by the software, which is similar to software used in workplaces across the U.S.

But it wasn’t until the Sun-Times used the Freedom of Information Act to request a copy of the log in May 2011 that officials say they launched an investigation into the unusual activity on Polito’s computer account.

Chief Judge Gerald R. Kinney insisted for months that the documents were judicial records that the public had no right to see. He finally released them after the Illinois Attorney General’s office wrote in a legal opinion that the list of porn websites was “unrelated to any judicial function [and] is not a judicial record.”

When Will County released the records, they showed someone using Polito’s county computer account tried to view porn at least 243 times during a six-month period starting late 2010. Though each attempt was blocked by the software designed to stop county employees wasting taxpayer time, the county’s technology chief said it was possible that other attempts had been successful.

The records showed Polito’s computer login and password were used at the Joliet courthouse to look up scores of websites including chubbyparade.com, hugeheavybreasts.com, bigbras-club.com, portofdebauchery.com and teenagesextape.com. Many others have names that can’t be printed in a family newspaper.

According to the Judicial Inquiry Board’s complaint, Will County has a written policy that barred workers from using county computers for accessing sexually explicit material — and Polito knew it.

Last August, following the Freedom of Information request, Kinney told Polito that he had found out about the sex sites. Polito then voluntarily sought treatment for his behavior, according to the complaint.

Judge Kinney was on vacation and unavailable for comment Friday, but told the Sun-Times in April there was “no evidence that there’s been any impact on [Polito’s] ability to serve the community as a member of the judiciary.”

According to the complaint filed Friday, Polito’s conduct violated two rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct, including the rule that says a judge should “personally observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved.”



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