Prosecutors from outside the Metro East have been picked to lead an investigation of St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert to decide whether he should be charged with obstruction of justice related to a first degree murder case.
Charles Colburn of Morgan County and David Neal of Grundy County will lead the investigation, according to Pat Delfino, director of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's office in Springfield.
Delfino said that both prosecutors had "a lot of experience."
Duebbert, elected in November as a Republican in a Democrat stronghold county, was reassigned to administrative duties on Jan. 3 due to his connection to murder suspect David E. Fields, 20, who has been charged with the Dec. 30 killing of Carl Z. Silas, 28, at an apartment in the 2900 block of West Boulevard in Belleville.
Duebbert allowed Fields to live at his Belleville home when he was released from prison on parole on Oct. 24. Fields served prison time for aggravated battery of a pregnant woman in September 2013. He stayed with Duebbert through the Nov. 8 election until Dec. 2, three days before he was sworn into office.
According to an investigator's search warrant, Duebbert told authorities he met with Fields on Dec. 29, around 8 p.m., and that he had no further contact with Fields.
The sheriff's investigator also wrote in the warrant that a request to Sprint for Duebbert's phone records showed nine text details between their phones on Dec. 29, from 8:10 p.m. to 10:47 p.m.
Duebbert was sworn in to office on Dec. 5, but controversy related to Fields has overshadowed his tenure as a judge from the start.
St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson at the outset assigned Duebbert to hear traffic cases and specifically not first appearance felony cases that typically would go through his assigned courtroom. Gleeson indicated that Duebbert’s sheltering of a parolee listed as a violent offender gave the appearance of impropriety.
Five days after the murder, on Jan. 4, Gleeson approved a request from St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly for the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Kelly wrote in one of two motions that the Major Case Squad - which initially led the investigation - had applied for charges against Duebbert.
"The evidence in the above cause (People v. Fields) and warrant application...are related and intertwined with one another and therefore a conflict of interest exists in both matters," the motion states.
Delfino said that investigative work conducted to date has included "lab work" involving Duebbert's cell phone, but has not yet involved "knocking on doors."
The selection of Colburn and Neal reflects a bi-partisan team.
According to voting records, Colburn, 57, of Jacksonville is Repulican; Neal, 61, of Morris, is Democrat.
In 2006, Colburn was appointed special prosecutor in an investigation of child sexual abuse against Tom Lakin, a once powerful Madison County attorney and major contributor to Democratic candidates and causes. His career fell apart after he faced with criminal charges in federal court.
In 2008, in exchange for Lakin's guilty plea to possessing and distributing cocaine to a person under 21 and maintaining a drug-involved premises, federal proseciutors dropped sex charges involving minors that carried a life sentence. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
In 2011, while still serving his sentence, Lakin appeared in Madison County to face pending child sexual abuse state court charges.
At that hearing, Lakin admitted that he committed sexual abuse on a 15 year old boy, and he confirmed a plea agreement requiring him to register as a sex offender.
Lakin did not plead guilty, but he submitted a stipulation of facts similar to a guilty plea. He accepted a six year sentence that ran concurrently with the six year sentence he served at a federal prison in Texas.
Lakin, 76, founded the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, which became a renowned class action and personal injury firm. The firm, run by son Brad Lakin, was renamed LakinChapman after the highly publicized federal court case was resolved. That firm dissolved and partners moved operations to St. Louis, Alton and Arizona with a name that does not bear Lakin - to SL Chapman.
An online search for news articles involving prosecutions Neal has been involved produced a thin record of cases.
In 2013, Neal charged Frankfort pediatrician Kishor Jain with 10 felony counts of criminal sexual abuse and five misdemeanor battery accounts, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
The report stated that the alleged victims were adults ranging from 22 to 30.
A special prosecutor was requested because several employees of the Will County state’s attorney’s office had children who were patients of the clinic where Jain practiced, but none were among the alleged victims, the article stated.
Another article about a 2012 prosecution of the son of a Will County Board member, a Democrat, stated that Neal dropped charges arising from an arrest for whipping a man with a belt.
According to an article in Joliet Patch.com, Alex Wilhelmi, son of board member Steve Wilhelmi, only faced charges of misdemeanor battery and mob action. Steve Wilhelmi is no longer on the board, according to the Will County Board site.
"Then the mob action charge went away, and now he's charged with nothing," the article states.
Neal, however, still pursued charges against the two men arrested along with Alex Wilhelmi, the article stated.