Judge Gleeson transfers Cueto defamation suit to Madison County

Steve Korris Oct. 22, 2007, 2:33am

BELLEVILLE - St. Clair County Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson has transferred to Madison County circuit court a defamation suit that disbarred attorney Amiel Cueto filed against the Madison County Record.

Gleeson announced the transfer at an Oct. 19 hearing.

Cueto, who was convicted in 1997 on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the United States, sued the Record last year, claiming it damaged his reputation by allegedly accusing him of wrongdoing at a meeting of St. Clair County judges and by alluding to allegations made in his criminal trial.

Fifteen St. Clair County judges either recused themselves or were recused by Chief Judge John Baricevic before the case reached Gleeson.

Prior to the hearing the Record petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court for an order assigning the case to a judge from outside St. Clair County, but the Court has not acted yet on the petition.

Cueto responded to the Record's motion in the Supreme Court by asking Judge Gleeson to transfer the case to Madison County.

Gleeson built up to the announcement of his decision of Cueto's motion by saying he was perhaps naïve or he looked at life through rose colored glasses.

He said law is an honorable profession.

"I've always thought that our judicial system was the best, bar none," he said.

He said he was honored and humbled to be a judge.

"I'm very respectful of the fact that people are looking to me to be fair and impartial," he said.

Turning to the circumstances surrounding the case before him, Gleeson noted that he does not have any particular bias or reason to be partial to either side.

He said "all the outside influences that seem to be involved here" concerned him.

"I don't want to become the side show," he said.

He said he started on the bench in December 2003, and the allegations in the case (about Cueto's alleged influence over St. Clair County judges) happened long before that.

He noted that the Record's motion in the Supreme Court goes to the heart of what he had been talking about-that even if a St. Clair County judge "believes he can be fair and impartial and has no bias, … just by the very nature of this, it gives rise to the appearance of impropriety."

He noted that the Supreme Court had not decided the Record's motion.

"I would like to think that that's because they think I believe I can be fair and impartial," he said.

He explained that he had come to the conclusion that there is another venue that takes away these issues about the appearance of any St. Clair County judge presiding over the case. Transferring the case to that venue gives "timely relief to the defendant and allows the plaintiff to go forward with their case."

"I'm not ducking this … but I don't want to be the lightning rod."

He said he didn't want to see the system he believes in being attacked for not being fair and impartial.

He said he would transfer the case to Madison County.

Record attorney Steve Pflaum of Chicago told Gleeson he respected and appreciated Gleeson's concerns about the appearance of impropriety and stressed that the Record's petition for supervisory order in the Supreme Court had nothing to do with him.

Gleeson said, "I didn't take it personally and I appreciate what you are saying."

He wished everyone good luck and added, "I'm sorry I'm not going to be able to participate (in this case) with all of you. I don't know that these particular cases come along often in a judge's career."

Cueto represented himself at the hearing.

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