In a fight to determine whether Deputy Sheriff Zane Seipler’s case will be dismissed because of the release of secret court documents by his wife on a blog, Seipler’s attorney Blake Horwitz and Sheriff Keith Nygren’s Attorney James Sotos faced off Wednesday.
Seipler was the only one to take the stand. He did so for about three hours.
It seemed to me that both sides were trying to tie up loose ends.
“If confidential information has been made public, I knew it wasn’t me,” Seipler again testified. “They are the ones who had the history of releasing confidential information.”
Sotos seemed to be laying groundwork for a “gotcha” moment, perhaps when Seipler’s wife Rose finally (after sitting outside missing work for three days) takes the stand. He did his best to create a timeline of when Seipler finally knew that the blog came from his computer.
He wanted to know how long the argument lasted after Seipler found out about his wife’s posting.
“All night. From 8 to 1 in the night.”
Later, Seipler said, “The argument is going on to this day.”
Horwitz took pains to show that his client knew nothing of the posting of Sheriff’s Department disciplinary documents that ended up on a blog that his wife wrote.
“I told her not to even comment on the internet,” he said.
But, he added, “She does what she does. She told me she wouldn’t. That’s why I believed she wouldn’t.”
Much was made of Seipler’s not having stepped forward to tell Magistrate Michael Mahoney of the lapse.
And much was made of a Woodstock Police Department domestic abuse report, secret according to state statute, that was posted all over the McHenry County Courthouse just before the 2010 primary election for Sheriff in which Seipler faced off against Nygren.
The report appeared after the Sotos law firm obtained it as part of defending Nygren in the wrongful termination case Seipler filed. Seipler testified that the Woodstock Police Chief said that the Sotos firm was the only entity that obtained the report.
The making public of the secret deposition of former Deputy Scott Milliman, fired by Nygren as was Seipler, took a lot of time.
And the list of alleged illegal activities of Sheriff Nygren was again presented to Judge Frederick Kapala.
This is the deposition that ended up being partially reported in the Northwest Herald, as was pointed out by Seipler, and given to one of the people mentioned in the deposition as having engaged in illegal acts. (For the second court hearing, Milliman was sitting outside awaiting his turn to be a witness.)
Judge Kapala can hardly have missed the point that Horwitz seemed trying to make, that is, the Sheriff’s disciplinary reports were far from the only documents that had been improperly released.
Seipler’s respect for the Sotos law firm was evident in his reply as to why he thought his wife would need an attorney after he found out that she had posted the documents:
Seipler: “Because she was going to have to answer to you…for posting the documents.”
Sotos: “What kind of a lawyer?”
Seipler: “Someone who could stand up to Jim Sotos and Associates. I wasn’t going to let her go in there without protection…
“The Sotos law firm will do whatever it has to to protect the Sheriff’s Department.”
At that point Seipler made reference to the deposition leaked to the Northwest Herald and the domestic violence police report:
“I believed that everybody was subject to the protective order.”
He later compared the internal disciplinary reports that his wife made public to the Scott Milliman allegations made public by Nygren’s Sheriff’s Office:
“The documents reflected cops behaving badly versus cops who could spend the rest of their life in jail.”
Asked about Milliman’s reliability, Seipler told of his being an officer with one of the highest records of arrest.
“He was a good cop. All the supervisors said that.”
As to his credibility, Seipler reported that Milliman had told him Nygren “thought of him as a son.”
Concerning the alleged criminal activity mentioned in his deposition, Seipler said,
“He was there when it was happening. He said he went to the FBI. He could get in big trouble.”
Horwitz asked if the information revealed was “potentially incriminating.”
“Right. Yes. The only ones who do that are ones who are coming clean.”
Horwitz brought up Dave Bachmann’s having revealed that Sheriff Nygren had two Homestead Exemptions and how after than Sheriff Nygren had called Milliman and said he wanted…
At which point Judge Kapala interrupted saying in a questioning voice, “Dave Bachmann is the one that Sheriff Nygren told Scott Milliman to kill.”
Getting an affirmative nod or facial expression, the Judge continued, “That’s all I need to know about that.”
This was one of several times the Judge indicated that he thought that more questions were being asked than was necessary to make the point being made.
At one point, he said, “This hearing’s going to take years if we’re going to go into that.”
Why did Seipler think his wife needed an attorney after learning of her posting of the disciplinary reports?
“It (the publishing of the protected documents) did not feel right. [It felt like] she was doing something wrong. I was concerned there was some kind of a breach of the court order.
“I was not comfortable with her just running out and saying, ‘I did it.'”
Rose Seipler did not hire an attorney immediately. Testimony was elicited that indicated financial problems were part, if not most, of the reason.“We’re always late with our mortgage.”
By this time Seipler had won his arbitration case to go back to work at the Sheriff’s Department, but Nygren kept appealing until turned down by the Illinois Supreme Court, depriving the family of two incomes.
The relationship between Sheriff Nygren and Seipler was explored.
“Did you feel like the Sheriff was out to get you?” Horwitz asked.
“Yes,” was the terse answer.
Seipler again recounted Nygren’s having told him to “get good insurance” in the lobby of the Northwest Herald building before the joint editorial board appearance.
Discussing Milliman’s fall 2010 deposition in Seipler’s case, Horwitz asked, “What effect did that have [on you]?”
“What he said in the deposition scared me. We’re scared of the same people, including Sheriff Nygren.”
The phrase “squash you like a grape” came up.
“I don’t want to be squeezed like a grape.
“This is a very serious thing going on here.”
Seipler testified that he was scared after Scott Milliman’s brother “was shot dead.”
Horwitz sought the reason Seipler thought it significant that Scott Milliman’s brother was killed in unincorporated McHenry County.“It was convenient,” Seipler said. “The agency that was to be tasked with the murder of Scott Milliman’s brother was the Sheriff’s Department.
He added that the woman in the house “was a CI [confidential informant] or her sister was a CI. I have no verification of either except what I’ve been told by other cops.
“She was there when he bled out,” Seipler said. [The shooting was right down the street from the Woodstock Hospital.]
Seipler also revealed that he took his concerns about the Sheriff’s Department racially profiling those to whom tickets were issued to the
- State Police
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Department of Human Rights
It was brought up that the Sotos law firm was deeply involved in a Sheriff’s Department study of racial profiling.
“Basically, the Department investigated itself,” Horwitz asserted.
Agreeing, Seipler pointed out that the study came after the Chicago Tribune ran a 2010 front page story on racial profiling in the Sheriff’s Department.
In the courtroom was the Sheriff Department’s new Affirmative Action Officer, Don Leist.