Cueto suits against ISC and officials stall in federal court

Steve Korris Aug. 20, 2009, 8:26am


EAST ST. LOUIS – Disbarred lawyer Amiel Cueto alleges in a federal lawsuit that St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida and others operated a criminal racket that sent him to prison and cost him his law license.

Cueto seeks $90 million from Haida, James Grogan of the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, and state liquor control agent Bonds Robinson.

He accuses them of bribery, extortion, mail fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, tampering with a witness or victim and retaliating against a witness or victim.

Haida and Grogan testified against Cueto at trial in federal court in 1997.

Jurors convicted Cueto of obstruction of justice.

The Illinois Supreme Court suspended his license in 1998 and revoked it in 2004.

Since Cueto completed his sentence he has filed a series of suits aiming to clear his criminal record and regain his license.

Last November he sued the Supreme Court Justices in federal court at East St. Louis, claiming they wrongly revoked his license.

He separately sued Haida, Grogan and Robinson, claiming they violated federal racketeering law.

Cueto alleged that Haida refused to prosecute the late Thomas Venezia, who also testified against him, for the murder of a fireman.

Cueto wrote that "as a direct result of Haida's letting Venezia get away with the murder of a fireman, Venezia was able to commit another murder of a young woman, before Venezia himself committed suicide."

Venezia and Jennifer Anderson died of gunshot wounds in 2005.

Belleville police determined that Venezia killed Anderson and himself, and a coroner's jury agreed.

Cueto's complaint explained that he held Haida liable for obstruction of justice under racketeering law but didn't hold him liable for murder.

He accused Robinson of using his office to obtain payoffs from tavern owners.

He wrote that Robinson's extortion racket, and by extension the enterprise he ran with Grogan and Haida, was "the most extensive and long running organized crime operation in the history of St. Clair County."

He wrote that Grogan retaliated against him because he and his client, Congressman Jerry Costello, refused to support a judicial candidate Grogan supported.

He wrote, "Grogan became a secret federal prosecutor against Cueto."

He wrote that he has lost at least $1,500,000 per year since 1998 due to the racket, for damages of at least $15 million.

He added $15 million in future losses for total damages of $30 million.

Racketeering law provides threefold damages, he wrote, for a total of $90 million.

For Haida, Theodore MacDonald of St. Louis moved to dismiss.

"His claim is a collateral attack on his criminal conviction," MacDonald wrote.

"He cannot recover damages for a criminal conviction that has not been overturned," he wrote.

For Robinson, Attorney General Lisa Madigan moved to dismiss.

"Plaintiff is improperly asking the court to review the decision of the Illinois Supreme Court to disbar him," Madigan assistant Thomas Klein wrote.

For Grogan, Clark Hedger of St. Louis moved to dismiss.

He wrote that the federal court lacked jurisdiction because it could not review rulings of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and the Supreme Court.

All defendants moved to stay discovery pending decisions on the motions to dismiss, and in January Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson denied the motion.

In February Chief Judge David Herndon granted a stay in the Supreme Court case.

In March Haida, Grogan and Robinson renewed their motion to stay discovery.

This time Wilkerson didn't decide the motion.

Herndon took charge, declaring the suits companion cases and imposing the same stay on the racketeering suit that he imposed on the suit against the Supreme Court.

The motions to dismiss remain pending in both cases, but nothing has happened in either case since March.

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