Editor's note: This story has been updated. A previous version incorrectly referenced lawyer Stephen Szewczyk of Swansea and that passage has been removed from the article. A different individual named Stephen Szewczyk had a traffic case handled by special prosecutor David Rands. The Record regrets the reporting error.
A review of St. Clair County cases handled by special prosecutor David Rands shows that he has bargained charges of driving under the influence down to trivial traffic tickets.
Rands dismissed three such charges in St. Clair County in the last three years, in exchange for guilty pleas on charges of improper lane use.
He dismissed two such charges in exchange for guilty pleas on charges of improper standing and driving on a suspended license.
Two drivers pleaded guilty to driving under the influence after Rands dismissed two tickets for one and dismissed three tickets and a misdemeanor for the other.
Guilty or not, six of the seven agreed to seek treatment.
Rands dismissed two felony charges in the last two years, one in exchange for a misdemeanor plea without jail time and one outright.
Rands, who works for the Fifth District appellate prosecutor’s office in Mount Vernon, acts as special prosecutor in county courthouses by appointment.
State’s attorneys ask circuit judges for special prosecutors due to conflicts of interest, potential conflicts, or the appearance of impropriety.
Rands currently acts as special prosecutor against Brad Van Hoose of Belleville, who faces a charge that he threatened Caseyville Mayor Leonard Black.
Threatening a regular person counts as a misdemeanor, but threatening a public official counts as a felony worthy of two to five years in prison.
Associate Judge Randall Kelley plans a bench trial on Friday, Feb. 17.
Special prosecutors always mean special circumstances.
On May 15, 2015, state police stopped a car and identified the driver as Cody Ahring of Belleville, age 18.
Court records don’t include an accident report, but a judge would later require Ahring to attend a victim impact meeting.
“Ahring was speeding 72 mph in a 50 mph zone,” a sworn report stated.
The officer wrote that he observed glassy bloodshot eyes, strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath, and other clues.
The officer identified passengers as Drew Sallerson and Nicholas Sallerson.
Their father, Steve Sallerson, is an assistant state’s attorney.
Police measured Ahring’s blood alcohol at .173, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent, and charged him accordingly.
They also charged him with consumption by a minor, a misdemeanor, and wrote tickets for speeding, illegal transportation, and expired registration.
Police charged Drew Sallerson, age 22, with illegal transportation.
They charged Nicholas Sallerson, age 20, with consumption by a minor and riding without a seat belt.
Ahring pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, after agreeing to pay $1,500 and spend two years under court supervision.
Drew Sallerson pleaded guilty of illegal transportation, and he agreed to pay $125 and spend 90 days under court supervision.
Nicholas Sallerson pleaded not guilty. He has a court date in May.
Nicholas Sallerson created another conflict of interest four days later, when sheriff’s deputies alleged that Traveon Taylor of Belleville pointed a gun at Sallerson.
Police charged Taylor with aggravated assault, a misdemeanor, but Rands dismissed the charge.
Rands reduced driving under the influence to improper lane use for Matthew Marison, Travis McDonald, and county board member James Haywood.
Each paid $2,000. Marison and Haywood accepted supervision for a year each, and McDonald accepted two years.
Lawyer David Cates of Swansea, son of appellate court judge Judy Cates, paid $3,000 and accepted 90 days of supervision after Rands reduced his charge from driving under the influence to improper standing.
Heath Kassing of Freeburg couldn’t beat a charge of driving under the influence, having hit .193 on the blood meter, but Rands dropped tickets for driving without insurance and failure to reduce speed.