QUINCY — Adams County State’s Attorney Gary Farha said he will be taking steps to put the Drew Clinton criminal sexual assault case back in front of a judge for sentencing after speaking Wednesday morning with a state official.
Farha said he participated in a phone conference with David Robinson, the chief deputy director at the State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s Office in Springfield. He also is the deputy director of the Fourth Judicial District, which is comprised of 30 counties across the central part of the state.
The topic of their conversation was the Clinton case, which has attracted national attention this month.
After finding the 18-year-old Clinton guilty of one count of criminal sexual assault during a bench trial on Oct. 15, Judge Bob Adrian changed his mind at Clinton’s sentencing hearing on Jan. 3 and declared him not guilty. Adrian said the 148 days Clinton served in the Adams County Jail was “plenty of punishment” and released him from custody.
“There is a mechanism for us to proceed, which we are going to explore,” Farha said. “It will involve (the State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s Office), more or less as an appeal, and it also will involve the Attorney General’s office. (Robinson) said he already has spoken to (Illinois Attorney General) Kwame Raoul.
“There’s also a possibility the Supreme Court will act, but we don’t know that yet. (Robinson) was pretty certain that we might hear from the Supreme Court, because they can take the initiative on their own. This is not a subject matter that is going to sit well with them in my belief.
“Nothing is clear cut yet. This is something that is not an every day occurrence.”
Adrian hasn’t returned to courthouse since Jan. 12
Farha thought a “three-pronged approach” involving the Adams County State’s Attorney’s Office, the State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s Office and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office would be used in coordinating the proceedings.
“(Robinson) was trying to convey to us that it would be very powerful if all three (entities) worked together, so that’s kind of where we’re at,” Farha said.
Drew Schnack, Clinton’s attorney during the trial, was wary about the possibility of the sentencing going before a new judge.
“How can they do that?” he asked. “I’m not saying they can’t do it, but now we’re going to go to the state of Illinois, and I suppose eventually the federal government. God only knows who’s going to be running our court system.
“The judge who tries the case, whether it’s a jury trial or a bench trial, does the sentencing for obvious reasons. He’s the one who heard the evidence, he’s the one who assesses the credibility of the witnesses, and he’s the one who is familiar with the case. So now we’re going to bring in a whole new judge to do a sentencing hearing?”
Pittsfield judge Frank McCartney, chief judge for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, issued an administrative order Jan. 13 to remove Adrian from handling criminal cases at the Adams County Courthouse.
However, Adrian has not yet returned to the courthouse to assume his new assignments since he left the courthouse on Jan. 12. Adrian threw Josh Jones, lead trial attorney for the Adams County State’s Attorney’s office, out of his courtroom on that day for a “comment” Jones recently made on social media on a Facebook post made by the Quincy Area Network Against Domestic Abuse.
Farha expecting ‘about two weeks’ to coordinate appeal
Farha said he recently spoke with a retired attorney, who had been in the State’s Attorney’s Office in Cook County for 15 years, for guidance on this issue.
“He was telling me a couple of cases he could recall from Cook County during Operation Greylord (a 3 1/2-year undercover operation during the 1980s) where judges were removed because there actually was corruption going on,” Farha said. “And he told us he thought something could be done (in the Clinton case).”
Farha thought it would take “about two weeks, maybe longer” to coordinate the appeal.
“They’re all swamped, but it’s got their immediate attention,” he said. “When I spoke with (Robinson), he is well aware of this, and he is certainly doing research on it now. (The Clinton case) has caught people’s attention.”
When Muddy River News first reported on Jan. 7 about the sentencing hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Anita Rodriguez said it was her understanding she could not appeal Adrian’s decision.
“As a prosecutor, there’s nothing the state can do,” she said. “It’s done.”
However, Farha believes he’s discovered a procedure to be followed to reverse the decision.
“It’s a rarity,” he said. “None of us (in the Adams County State’s Attorney’s Office) have ever encountered a situation like this.”
Clinton’s attorney: ‘To me, it’s opening a Pandora’s box’
Schnack says putting the case in front of another judge causes more problems than it solves.
“Are we going to reverse the first two counts when he was found not guilty?” he asked. “Are they just going to reverse the post-trial motion? Then we don’t have any closure ever.
“Drew Clinton has been found not guilty. The judgment has been entered on those verdicts. The case is over. His bond has been discharged. He’s out of custody. He’s out of state. How are they going to give him the right to be present and be heard on all this? Because it sure isn’t going to come through me. As far as I’m concerned, the case is over. So they can send me all the notices they want. I want to send them right back, saying I no longer represent Drew Clinton.
“This opens the door to (reverse the decision) in every criminal case, doesn’t it? … To me, it’s opening a Pandora’s box. Maybe that’s what they want to do.”
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