A friend of McHenry County Blog was in the courtroom yesterday and provided the basis for this article.
The preliminaries are over in the trial of McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi.
His attorney, Terry Ekl, argued for dismissal Wednesday. Judge Joseph McGraw said he would render a decision quickly.
The trial starts March 21st for the first charges and June 27 was set for the second round.
During the hearing the defense suggested there was some questionable behavior by Special Prosecutors Henry Tonigan and Thomas McQueen.
As a result the judge allowed Ekl to have the colloquy of the secret grand jury. That is the transcript of the spoken word of the prosecution and it is sealed from the view of other eyes.
Ekl claimed abuse of the grand jury process by the special prosecutors.
The grand jury is a procedure in which the prosecution has total control. Neither the defendant nor his lawyer attend. It is a one-sided situation in which witnesses are sworn in.
Ekl claimed that the special prosecutors
- were unsworn witnesses making statements without evidence to back it up
- made up facts and evidence to give to the Grand Jury
- gave information when there was not testimony to back it up
It is up to the Grand Jury to see documents and hear the sworn testimony and make decisions.
Ekl said that there were gross misstatements regarding the law when the Special Prosecutors were addressing the Grand Jury.
As one example, he pointed to an investigator named Stilling, who claimed that County Administrator Pete Austin said that he was the only person that could authorize non-county use of computers.
County rules state that any elected county official can give such permission, as long as it is not interfering with county work or abusive. Stilling had no notes nor did he write any report on his interviews. He works for Quest.
Special Prosecutor Thomas McQueen claimed that the grand jury only has to find probable cause.
After the hearing, First Electric Newspaper asked Ekl who was paying his legal fees. Ekl’s reply:
“No county money will be spent to pay me. My client (Bianchi) pays me.”
First Electric Newpaper’s story on the hearing is here.
About 30 supporters of Bianchi attended the hearing.