Wednesday afternoon, Associate Judge Thomas Meyer heard testimony from McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi about the “conflict of interest” that Bianchi sees in representing Sheriff Keith Nygren in some seven suits and preparing 4-5 opinions and at the same time investigating, indicting and prosecuting him.
Bianchi based his position on the Rules of Conduct for Illinois attorneys, which basically says that an attorney can’t both defend and prosecute a client.
With little variation, that was the State’s Attorney refrain throughout the afternoon court session.
When asked whether specific criminal allegations, e.g., use of taxpayer dollars to use a 7-pointed star for political purposes or the more general use of public funds to promote his political career, would result in action on his part against the Sheriff, Bianchi’s repeated reply was.
- “I will not” and
- “It would be unethical to do so.”
There were variations on those answers, but all had the same meaning:
Bianchi will not investigate Sheriff because it would be an ethical lapse that would put his law license in jeopardy.
Five specific situations beyond the use of public money to affix a star that seemingly started out as a campaign symbol were presented by Horwitz to Bianchi for a reply as to whether he would investigate them, if allegations were brought to his office:
The illegal transportation of Hispanics from Mexico to McHenry County
- Solicitation of murder of Judge [Conrad] Floeter
- Solicitation of murder of David Bachmann
- Conspiracy with Jose Rivera in the generation of fraudulent loan documents
- Causing dismissal of criminal allegations brought against drivers who were driving vehicles in McHenry County
At one point during the hearing, Deputy Sheriff Zane Seipler’s attorney Blake Horwitz said,
“Then the Sheriff gets a free ride by virtue of his position.”
Judge Meyer seemed to make it clear that the 7-pointed star issue was what was under consideration and not the other issues that Horwitz advanced.
As Horwitz said, “I think I’m done,” Bianchi broke out in a broad smile.
When Special Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Caldwell got his turn, he seemed to be trying to show the Judge that Bianchi made a conscious choice not to initiate any criminal probe of Nygren.
It is obvious that State’s Attorneys have great discretionary power. Perhaps, Caldwell was trying to emphasize that fact.
Consider this question and answer:
Caldwell: “You are able to pass your preferences as it concerns Mr. Seipler’s petition?
Bianchi: “I never looked at the merits. The question came and I couldn’t do it.”
After the attorneys finished their cases in the 27-month trial, Judge Meyer said, “I’m going to do some of my own research.”
He seemed to think he might be able to do in a short period of time and render a decision later in the afternoon, but after 15-20 minutes he returned to his courtroom and announced he had no decision.
Judge Meyer set the next court date for April 25th, the same day as he will handle Horwitz’ request for sanctions against Nygren’s personal attorney Mark Gummerson.
Neither principal were in attendance. Nygren sent his new Affirmative Action Officer Don Leist, who moved over from the State’s Attorney’s Office. Seipler has friends but, apparently, was on the job he regained after a long, drawn-out challenge by Nygren to an arbitrator’s decision re-instating him as a Deputy Sheriff.
Below is some of the evidence relating to the morphing of the 7-pointed star from a campaign symbol to a logo for the Sheriff’s Department: