Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, October 14, 2019

Jury trial rescheduled in St. Clair Co. tax sale bid-rigging class action; Tax buyers object to discovery requests

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Nov 16, 2016

Magistrate Judge Reona Daly sustained several tax buyers’ objections to discovery requests seeking criminal sentencing documents in a bid-rigging class action against St. Clair County Treasurer Charles Suarez and several tax buyers.

Daly also rescheduled a jury trial that had been set in April 3 until Aug. 17, 2017, at 9 a.m. at the Benton courthouse before District Judge Staci Yandle.

Two couples sued Suarez and tax buyers in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on Oct. 17, 2014, alleging a conspiracy similar to one that sent former Madison County treasurer Fred Bathon to prison.

John Bloyer Jr., Adrianne Bloyer, Kevin Dvorak and Kathleen Dvorak, all of O’Fallon, claim the alleged conspirators artificially inflated interest rates at tax sales in 2007 and 2008. They claim Suarez illegally rigged bids at sales of delinquent taxes to enrich Democratic campaign contributors.

The plaintiffs sought access to the defendants’ sealed criminal sentencing documents in their discovery requests. The defendants objected.

In an Oct. 7 response, Joseph Vassen, John Vassen and VI Inc., filed a memorandum in opposition through attorney Paul Slocomb of Hoffman & Slocomb LLC in St. Louis. They argue that the requested documents are barred from discovery.

They cited the Northern District of Illinois’ decision that pre-sentencing reports are confidential documents.

“’We judges would break faith with defendants, whom we uniformly urge to cooperate with and make full disclosure to the Probation Office to assist us in our sentencing decisions, if we opened the reports up to public scrutiny,’” the opposition states.

In an Oct. 17 order, Daly sustained the defendants’ objections.

Daly wrote that pre-sentence reports consist of a criminal defendant’s detailed personal information and may reveal the government’s confidential sources.

Therefore, the party seeking disclosure of the reports “must demonstrate ‘a particularized purpose sufficient to establish a compelling need.’”

Daly held that the plaintiffs failed to identify a compelling, particular need for obtaining pre-sentence reports.

“Although the reports may be generally relevant to the instant action, Plaintiffs did not articulate any specific factual proposition they seek to support or any statement they seek to impeach.

“Plaintiffs further did not show that the information in the pre-sentence reports was unavailable from other sources,” she wrote.

As a result, she sustained the defendants’ objections.

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