Madison - St. Clair Record

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Rands appointed special prosecutor in Wigginton DUI; Former U.S. Attorney pleads not guilty

By Ann Maher | Jun 12, 2017

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.

Illinois appellate prosecutor David Rands has been appointed to handle DUI and related traffic charges against former U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton who was arrested last month by Troy police.

Wigginton, who entered a plea of not guilty on June 2, also faces charges of failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident, leaving the scene of an accident exiting Interstate 55/70 at U.S. Route 40 and driving with one headlight.

He was ticketed by patrol officer Bryan Brown, who indicated in an arrest report that the former federal prosecutor's speech was slurred, eyes were red and glassy and breath smelled strongly of alcohol when he was pulled over at around 10 p.m. on May 23.

Wigginton refused to take a breath test, and signed a statement that for his refusal he would lose his license for at least a year.

He is being represented by Curtis Dawson and the Edwardsville firm Lucco, Brown, Threlkeld and Dawson.

In addition to a demand for a speedy jury trial, his attorneys are asking for a hearing within 30 days to rescind the statutory summary suspension of his driver's license.

They also have requested that patrolman Brown, as well as any officer involved in the blood or breath testing procedure performed and any officer who may be a witness to any "alleged refusal to submit to breath or blood testing" to be present at all trials and hearings in the case.

Rands was appointed after Madison County State's Attorney Thomas Gibbons declared a conflict of interest exists on June 7. State’s attorneys can ask circuit judges for special prosecutors due to conflicts of interest, potential conflicts, or the appearance of impropriety.  

"...Wigginton is a former employee of the Madison County State's Attorney's Office," the motion for appointment of special prosecutor states.

Rands has handled more than 100 prosecutions in Madison and St. Clair County in the last 10 years.

A review of St. Clair County cases Rands has handled shows that he has bargained charges of driving under the influence down to trivial traffic tickets.

He 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 works for the Fifth District appellate prosecutor’s office in Mount Vernon, and acts as special prosecutor in county courthouses throughout southern Illinois by appointment.

He acted as special prosecutor against Brad Van Hoose of Belleville, who was tried earlier this year on a felony charge of threatening Caseyville mayor Leonard Black.

Associate Judge Randall Kelley found that Rands failed to prove the felony charge, but nonetheless found him guilty of the uncharged offense of misdemeanor assault.

Van Hoose is planning to appeal Kelley's recent denial of his move for reconsideration, in which he argues that he would have prepared to defend a misdemeanor charge if he had known he would face it.

Special Circumstances

"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 St. Clair County 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.

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.

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Illinois State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor