With former Criminal Division Chief Nichole Owens to go as Special Prosecutor Henry Tonigan’s final witness, McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi’s criminal defense lawyer Terry Ekl is so unimpressed with the case put on against his client that he intends to file for a directed verdict.
That means Ekl believes that the prosecution has put on such a poor case that no defense witnesses are needed.
Tonigan assistant Thomas McQueen spent most of the morning presenting Quest International computer forensics expert Dan Jerger with copies of printouts for identification.
The documents had been obtained from computers in the State’s Attorney’s Office.
The $250 an hour expert identified documents with the following titles or subject matters, among others:
- Fiesta Check List on Day of Event
- Fiesta Check List
- Public Announcement
- Correspondence on the letterhead of Louis Bianchi, Republican for McHenry County State’s Attorney
- Mailing labels
- Dear Supporter Letters
- Committeemen Envelopes (142 labels)
- Dear Committee Letter
- Fellow Republican
- Republicans on a spreadsheet
- Vrett Party spreadsheet
- Late Thanks Festa
- New List 2006-2007 spreadsheet
- Festa Final Final spreadsheet
- New List 2006-2007 spreadsheet
- 2005 Plates
- Festa List 2006
- Festa List 2006 spreadsheet
- Mailing List Bianchi
- FWDRE Invite List
- Bianchi Announcement 2007 Final
- Support File – Koehler
- Support – Plaze
- Support File – Donner-Merkel- Hill-Wheeler
- Franks Support
- Sign Locations
- 2007 Election
- Sample Letter
- Meeting 5-17
- Letter to Committeemen
- Letter to Supporters
- Dear Committeemen
- DR Packet (Letter from Danial J. Regna)
- Dear Festa Sponsor (on Louis Bianchi for McHenry County State’s Attorney letterhead)
Of these the expert said 100 were created on August 8, 2007.
70 were created within a seven-second time period on August 8, 2007.
Jerger said a number “had the file property of being hidden.”
Next came four emails from Joyce Synek and five for Bianchi.
One, a “contact list.” was sent to Bianchi and Bianchi’s campaign manger, Nancy Prioletti, from Synek, he said.
On cross examination, Jerger could not estimate how many emails he went through to find the nine presented as evidence.
“I was not directed to.”
“Did you just put search terms in?”
That was apparently the case.
Ekl asked if he had a report of his activities. None that had not been presented by McQueen seemed forthcoming.
There were notes, however, that Ekl did not receive in a timely fashion.
They were subpoenaed in early December and did not show up until March 15th.
This disturbed Ekl to the point where he asked Judge McGraw to strike Jerger’s entire testimony.
The Judge was disturbed enough to ask McQueen, “Had you asked for handwritten notes?” He decided he wanted to hear the President of Quest Robert A. Scigalski, who sat in the courtroom both Monday and Tuesday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a tap dance (about court ordered production),” Ekl said after the prosecution’s explanation of why Jerger’s notes didn’t get handed over until last week.
Ekl finally got Jerger to agree there were probably more than 100,000 documents on Synek’s hard drive.
Jerger wouldn’t venture a guess as to how many files the disk contained.
“I do not have the number of files that were on that,” he said.
Neither did he have an estimate as to how many were on Karen Rhodes’ 80 GB hard disk.
Jerger had no idea how many hours he has worked on the project.
Ekl pointed out the billing said 345.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Jerger observed.
At $250 an hour, Ekl calculated he had charged the county $86,250.
That’s when he revealed the total Quest bill as $225,000.
Questioning continued with Ekl trying to get Jerger to admit that the 100 files found on Synek’s computer dated August 8, 2008, were probably the result of their being downloaded onto the computer.
I didn’t hear real solid agreement.
This was part of an attempt by Ekl to show that file creation dates might not mean what a layman would think they would.
About the best that Ekl could get in way of agreement to his interpretation of the data was
“(There’s) no indication that it wouldn’t be what you’re suggesting.”
Ekl asked if evidence was discovered to show that Synek’s “computer was infested with viruses.”
Jerger said he didn’t recall.
Ekl: “You didn’t know as of August 20th that in the first part of July it was infested?”
“No, to my recollection, I didn’t learn that,” Jerger said.
Ekl thought that was significant because “when you run an anti-virus software there’s movement of a lot of files and lots of files are lost.”
Some get put “into a quarantine so it (the virus) can no longer harm the computer,” Ekl explained.
While Ekl seemed certain that Jerger had been informed by a member of the McHenry County IT Department, Jerger wasn’t, even after looking at his handwritten notes.
Asked if any of those who had used Synek’s computer had password protection, Jerger said they didn’t.
In addition to computerized data, 726 paper documents were taken from Synek’s office and 3,000 from Karen Rhodes.
During the lunch break Ekl explained to reporters,
“They can’t establish that any document was typed up on a county computer.”
Concerning the “hidden” files, they have fifty hard copies that they took out of her (Synek’s) office.
“Virus removal causes files to be deleted.
“There’s no evidence that any files were deleted after the subpoenas were issued.”
After lunch, Karen Rhodes, who had been given immunity from prosecution at both the Grand Jury and this trial testified.
She explained how the campaign documents that were on her computer and the few political emails got there.
Rhodes said she created and maintained all of the campaign financial records on her laptop at home, but didn’t trust it and copied the records onto the office computer for backup purposes.
She said an email to her office email address from a campaign web site host should have been sent to her home email address and, when the first one came to the office, she told the vendor.
If you will pardon a characterization, I thought Tom Carroll–without a grant of immunity–revealed more damaging information about use of the office for campaign purposes Monday than Rhodes did with one.
Rhodes said after the Amy Dalby investigation she “was more vocal about” use of the office for campaign purposes. “I was upset after the Dalby investigation started.”
Asked about backing up the campaign finance records on the office computer, Rhodes said, “He (Bianchi) had not idea I had done it.”
Ekl went through Prosecution Exhibit after Prosecution Exhibit eliciting explanations of how they got on the office computer.
When he finished, he said,
“We will have a motion for a directed finding.”
After the lunch break Rhodes, who had been given immunity from prosecution to testify took the stand.