Friday, June 24, 2011

Below the Radar in Edgar County -- Mutual Interests of Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor and Others Working in McHenry County on High-Profile Cases

Same January 2008 Day ILSAAP Media Consultants Met Quietly with McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi in Itasca, Another Fire was Burning Down State -- the Release of Herb Whitlock from Prison. Whitlock's Ongoing Cases of Interest to Same People Working Now in McHenry County on High-Profile Cases.

Late in 2007, the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP), the Agency's contracted media consultants, and DuPage County defense attorneys Terry Ekl and James Sotos had mutual interests in a white-haired man sitting in a cell in the Danville Correction Center.

Herb Whitlock, after serving 21 years in prison for the murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads of Paris, IL, was about to be released. A 53-page decision by the 4th District Illinois Appellate Court was unanimous in granting a new trial for Whitlock, ruling that evidence favorable to his defense had been suppressed. The deadline for ILSAAP special prosecutors Chuck Colburn and Michael Vujovich to pull together a new trial was quickly approaching.

Minutes from the Dec. 5, 2007 ILSAAP Board of Governors meeting mentioned that Vujovich had traveled with Illinois State Police officers to Orlando to meet with a key witness not previously interviewed regarding the 1986 double homicide. ILSAAP special prosecutors David Rands and Ed Parkinson would be consulting because of their previous involvement in the case.

On Jan. 4, 2008, ILSAAP filed a highly-publicized Motion to Nolle Prosequi Without Prejudice for the release of Whitlock, signed by Colburn and Vujovich. While it provided freedom, there was no finality. The motion charged that Whitlock remained under suspicion and required additional investigation. Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune referred to ILSAAP's motion as "peevish" and "a shot of slime." "The idea that prosecutors still need more time to investigate one of the most investigated and repeatedly re-investigated crimes in state history is nonsense," he wrote. 

Widespread press quotes of Colburn and Vujovich on the prisoner's release reinforced ILSAAP's stand that Whitlock and his former co-defendant, Gordon "Randy" Steidl were perpetual suspects. 

Among the numerous media outlets reporting the special prosecutors' remarks was the Terre Haute Tribune Star. It quoted Vujovich: "Two people were viciously murdered and we are still committed to getting to the bottom of this case. We have always believed that the two suspects that were convicted -- Mr. Steidl and Mr. Whitlock -- were responsible for the death of those two individuals."

Together, ILSAAP's motion and press quotes may have later served as protection for a defendant or defendants in wrongful conviction lawsuits represented by Ekl and Sotos, as well as deflecting attention from other potential suspects -- suspects Whitlock and Steidl claim had motive.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bianchi in Daily Herald's Campaign Forum the Day After Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor "Game Changers" Provided Press Assistance

ILSAAP "Game Changers" Met with McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi in Third Itasca Visit About "Press-Related Issues" the Day Before Two-Hour Grilling by Daily Herald's Editorial Board in Campaign Forum with Primary Opponent. Also Approximate Date Special Prosecutors Charged that Bianchi Had Met with His Office Managers to Prepare Him for Same Endorsement Meeting; Bianchi Later Acquitted.

Reverse Spin, contracted media consultants for the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP), "met with McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi and several other individuals in Itasca about various press-related issues within his office" on Jan. 8, 2008 -- the day before a scheduled campaign endorsement forum by Daily Herald newspaper's editorial board, according to the vendor's activity report submitted with an invoice charging the Agency.

Coincidentally, Jan. 7 was the approximate date special prosecutors Henry Tonigan and Thomas McQueen charged that Bianchi had met with the state's attorney's office managers to prepare him for an election endorsement meeting with the Daily Herald newspaper; Bianchi was later acquitted. The media consultants had stated that they had also talked several times to Bianchi during this period. (See timeline below)

The newspaper's endorsement was a concern for the state's attorney. Bianchi had been recently criticized for alleged political activity at the government office and for excessive reimbursement requests for meals and treats for himself and staff on the tax-payer's dime. Local law enforcement were backing his opponent, Dan Regna. Several weeks after the forum, the Daily Herald published its endorsement for Regna.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

ILSAAP "Game Changers" Activity in McHenry & Winnebago Counties in November 2007...Crossing the Line?

November 2007 activity reports from the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) raise questions as to the nature of "extensive" contracted media consultation performed for McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi and former Winnebago County State's Attorney Phil Nicolosi.

Curry Public Strategies of Wheaton secured a nine-month contract with ILSAAP starting the previous month, which was to include assisting state's attorneys on crisis management advice on high profile cases. These consultants would later morph into Reverse Spin and describe themselves as political "operatives" and "game changers".

"In November 2007," the consultants reported, "I consulted extensively with two State's Attorneys -- by phone, email and in person."

No ILSAAP work product of the media consultants is available that month. By correlating dates and events listed in activity reports with media stories published at the time, however, there is potential that some of their tax-paid services may have overlapped into political and/or personal legal matters of state's attorneys and candidates Bianchi and Nicolosi.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Meanwhile...Down in Kane County, Unpublished ILSAAP Ties in Ongoing Prosecution of Coroner Chuck West

Former Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti Has Served on the Board of Governors of the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor and Has Earned $31,400 from the Agency Since 2007. Said Appointed Attorneys Chuck Colburn and David O'Connor Would Be "Independent" and "Avoid Conflict of Interest" in Ongoing Prosecution of Kane County Coroner Chuck West.

In purported efforts to avoid conflicts of interest, potentially worse conflicts of interest were created when two men associated with the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) were appointed to engage in adversarial roles in the ongoing prosecution of County Coroner Chuck West.

Former Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti, appointed to the 16th Judicial Circuit last December, turned over the investigation of West's alleged misconduct to ILSAAP special prosecutor Chuck Colburn in October 2009, as the state's attorney's office represents the coroner's office. 

Barsanti referred to this transfer as "independent" and avoiding a "conflict of interest" in quotes to the local media.

From 2008 through 2010, Barsanti was serving on the ILSAAP Board of Governors; minutes show Barsanti and Colburn attending the same Board meetings. Prior to being elected state's attorney in 2004, Barsanti had served as an ILSAAP special prosecutor for four years. 

State records also affirm that Barsanti has been paid $31,400 from ILSAAP since 2007; much of it shown as instructor's fees for seminars. (See all vouchers following article)

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