Chief judge removes Adrian from felony docket to ‘make sure everything’s running smoothly in Adams County’

Adrian and McCartney

Bob Adrian, left, and Frank McCartney

QUINCY — Judge Bob Adrian, who has gained national attention for the reversal of his decision in a local criminal sexual assault case, is no longer handling criminal cases at the Adams County Courthouse.

An administrative order signed Thursday by Pittsfield judge Frank McCartney, chief judge for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, detailed the changes in Adrian’s duties. 

Adrian, who has been a judge in the Eighth Judicial Circuit since 2010, has been assigned:

  • The small claims dockets, which are heard on Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays. Small claims court is a place for the speedy trial of lawsuits based upon contract or tort seeking $10,000 or less.
  • The Law Magistrate docket, which is heard Wednesday mornings. These cases typically include forcible entry and detainer (more commonly known as eviction) proceeds.
  • The probate docket, which is heard Monday mornings. These cases typically handle wills, estates, conservatorships and guardianships.

The order also noted Adrian “shall be assigned to other civil cases as assigned.”

“I want to make sure the court process in Adams County is working properly, and I understand this situation has received a lot of media coverage,” McCartney said. “I’m just trying to do the best I can to make sure everything’s running smoothly in Adams County, so I’m going to continue trying to do that. 

“Obviously, it’s a fluid situation. I’ve got to make sure I’m doing everything I need to do in my role as chief.”

Judge Scott Larson has been assigned Adrian’s criminal felony docket “until further order of this court.” Adrian and Judge Amy Lannerd had typically split the criminal felony docket.

“The felony case numbers are going to be higher (for a judge),” McCartney said. “It all depends on how many civil cases a judge picks up, so I couldn’t tell you specific numbers. But (Adrian) probably won’t be quite as busy as he was before.”

McCartney said Adrian was assigned to handle three murder cases in Adams County. Two of them now have been assigned to Lannerd, and one was assigned to Associate Judge Roger Thomson of Mason County. 

“(Adrian) is no longer assigned to any criminal cases,” McCartney said.

After finding 18-year-old Drew Clinton guilty of one count of criminal sexual assault during a bench trial on Oct. 15, Adrian changed his mind at Clinton’s sentencing hearing on Jan. 3 and declared him not guilty.

“… This happened when this teenager … was two weeks past 18 years old,” Adrian said, according to transcripts provided by Kim Cattrall, a court reporter for Adams County. “He has no prior record, none whatsoever. By law, the court is supposed to sentence this young man to the Department of Corrections. This court will not do that. That is not just. There is no way for what happened in this case that this teenager should go to the Department of Corrections. I will not do that.”

Adrian said the 148 days Clinton served in the county jail was “plenty of punishment” and released him from custody.

Adrian then tossed Josh Jones, lead trial attorney for the Adams County State’s Attorney’s office, out of his courtroom Wednesday morning for a “comment” Jones made on social media.

Jones said he reacted to a Tuesday post on the Quincy Area Network Against Domestic Abuse (QUANADA) Facebook page by “liking” the post, which is indicated by a blue thumb’s-up logo. The post included the statement from Megan Duesterhaus, QUANADA executive director, who expressed her outrage about Adrian’s decision. It also had a photo of the QUANADA logo that said “Hold rapists accountable” underneath. 

The reversal of his decision in the Clinton case, along with his ejection of Jones from the courtroom, have created plenty of attention for Adrian in the national media. The story has been picked up by news organizations worldwide, including CNN, FOX, Newsweek, the New York Post, the Washington Post and the Daily Mail in London.

Asked if the national notoriety being given to Adrian’s recent conduct forced him to make a decision quickly, McCartney said, “Oh, not at all. I can’t let that influence me. I’ve got to do what I believe my job is.”

Larson also has been assigned to hear emergency order of protections on Tuesdays. Each judge in the Eighth Judicial District has one day to hear those cases.

Judge Tad Brenner also was assigned to Judge Holly Henze’s conflict family docket until further order. Adrian typically handled cases for which Henze had a conflict.

McCartney’s role as the district’s chief judge is mostly administrative — “making sure judges are assigned to cases and the court system is working properly,” he explained. 

However, he said Thursday’s court order doesn’t mean Adrian’s situation is complete.

“I have rules and obligations that I’m looking into as to what my requirements are. I am working through that process as we speak,” McCartney said. “Basically, the order today was to get some clarity for the Adams County court system. We’re going to move forward from there. I can’t comment honestly whether there’s going to be anything else, because we’re still trying to work through that process.”

Adrian, a Republican, earned election to his position in the Eighth Judicial Circuit after defeating Quincy attorney Chris Scholz with 55.7 percent of the vote in the November 2010 election. He replaced Mark Schuering, who retired.

Adrian served three years as an Adams County Public Defender and eight years as an Assistant State’s Attorney. Before becoming a judge, he was a partner in the law firm of Adrian and Dunn, which had offices in Quincy and Mount Sterling. He is past president of the Adams County Bar Association.

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