SPRINGFIELD – Special prosecutor Charles Colburn of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor office is the new leader of an investigation into the murder of Carl Silas in Belleville last December.
Colburn stepped into Silas’s murder on Sept. 15, appearing before St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida at a conference for suspect David Fields.
Special prosecutor Matt Goetten, previously in charge, appeared with Colburn but confirmed on the way out that he would not stay on the case.
Silas died on Dec. 30, at an apartment on West Boulevard in Belleville.
Fields turned himself in at county jail hours later.
State’s attorney Brendan Kelly petitioned for a special prosecutor, and Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson granted it.
The case against Fields, who is alleged to have shot Silas in his sleep, became sensationalized due to a connection he had with St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert, a Republican.
Last fall, while Duebbert ran for circuit judge against the sitting Democratic chief judge, Fields completed a prison sentence for domestic battery and briefly stayed at Duebbert’s home.
Fields’s new prosecutor, Colburn, a Republican, ran for Morgan County state’s attorney in 2004.
He loaned his campaign $199,000, spent about $244,000, and lost.
After his loss to Democrat Christopher Reif, the appellate prosecutor’s office hired Colburn, at a salary now standing at $130,000.
He hasn’t handled big cases in St. Clair County, but he handled half the prosecution of Madison County lawyer Tom Lakin.
Starting in 2006, federal prosecutors and Colburn investigated allegations in a Jane Doe civil suit accusing Lakin of having sex with minors and distributing cocaine.
Colburn’s investigation stayed the civil suit, which had started in Madison County but shifted to St. Clair County.
In 2008, in U.S. district court, Lakin pleaded guilty of distributing cocaine and operating a drug house.
District Judge Phil Gilbert dismissed the sex charges, and sentenced Lakin to six years in prison.
Colburn’s investigation lasted five years and kept Jane Doe’s civil suit on ice.
In 2011, she moved to lift the stay.
Her lawyer, Edward Unsell of East Alton, wrote that the state exhibited no indication of any intention to prosecute.
Unsell served subpoenas on Colburn and chief appellate prosecutor Patrick Delfino.
Eighteen days later, Delfino and Colburn announced that Lakin wouldn’t plead guilty of sexual crimes but would register as a sex offender.
Lakin stipulated that he performed oral sex on a boy 15 years old.
Soon after he would plead that his stipulation protected him from civil liability.
When the Jane Doe suit resumed, Unsell moved for summary judgment that Lakin admitted liability.
Defense counsel Clyde Kuehn of Belleville answered that the state, meaning Delfino and Colburn, agreed to forego an admission of guilt.
Kuehn wrote that the criminal proceedings didn’t test the merits of the allegations in Jane Doe’s complaint.
“In fact, those Madison County criminal proceedings were specifically designed to end an unknown specter of menacing criminal liability while at the same time allowing Tom Lakin the freedom and opportunity to actually litigate in the future,” Kuehn wrote.
St. Clair County Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf granted summary judgment in 2014.
Jane Doe settled with Lakin this August.
In a Jerseyville case from 2006, Colburn found that a teenage boy who died after police shocked him twice with a stun gun might have died of natural causes.
Colburn quoted a pathologist who wrote that Roger Holyfield, 17, might have died from “excited delirium” that caused his heart to race until it stopped.
Colburn wrote that the officers acted in a manner they had been taught was safe.
“This unfortunate situation began with a common police-citizen encounter and evolved into a tragedy,” Colburn wrote.
Roger Holyfield’s mother, Rita Cummings of Dow, settled a civil suit and told KMOV-TV they shocked him while handcuffed and face down.
“I don’t feel that justice has been served,” she said.
Three sensational cases involved sons of Will County leaders.
In 2014, a son of Will County judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes kicked a woman, choked her, dragged her by the hair to his car, and briefly kept her in the trunk.
Colburn agreed to probation for son Louis Goode, with credit for 57 days in jail.
Colburn dropped charges of aggravated domestic battery and domestic battery, and Goode pleaded guilty to felony restraint and domestic battery.
In 2012, when a son of former Will County chief judge Rodney Lechwar faced up to 30 years for heroin delivery, Colburn agreed to seven months and boot camp.
Matthew Lechwar had already served a sentence for heroin delivery when agents reported that they caught him with 15 to 100 grams.
Colburn reduced the charge, finding the state police laboratory determined that Matthew carried much less heroin than agents reported.
In 2010, police found Brandon Lauer, 19, on a school parking lot in Frankfort Square with wounds to his neck and back.
Lauer told police that Matthew Moustis, son of Will County board chairman Jim Moustis, stabbed him, and a witness said the same.
Colburn convened a grand jury but no indictment resulted.
Eric Lauer, father of Brandon, told the Joliet Herald-News, “Will County and state police didn’t do a good investigation.”
He said witnesses weren’t interviewed and Facebook posts weren’t collected.
“I know because of who his dad was, it was covered up,” Eric Lauer said.
In 2014, when Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham used a county computer for his campaign, Colburn found no violation of state law.
Cunningham used county access about a dozen times for electronic messages about endorsement interviews and campaign brochures.
Colburn told the Kane County Chronicle the case lacked the element of intent.
“This was not a campaign run out of the Kane County clerk’s office,” Colburn told the paper.
Cunningham paid a $500 fine under the county ethics ordinance.
Colburn rejected a similar complaint against deputy clerk Jeff Ward, finding the ethics ordinance didn’t apply to employees of elected office holders.
In Livingston County, in 2013, Colburn signed a letter ending an investigation of sheriff Martin Meredith when the sheriff resigned.
Meredith authorized installment of global positioning in his girlfriend’s car.
“Sheriff Meredith, if in fact he had abused his position of sheriff in his use of the GPS device, is now out of office and no longer has access to the power of the office of sheriff,” Colburn wrote.
He denied to the Bloomington Pantagraph that he and Meredith reached an agreement to end the investigation.
Meredith told the newspaper, “It’s a sad thing that people may have believed I was guilty of something I did not do, and the special prosecutor’s letter proves this.”
In Hancock County, Colburn chose not to charge Carthage police officer Scott Floyd with misconduct on complaints that emerged when Floyd ran for sheriff.
Colburn found that other officials knew for two years about a truck Floyd sold to the city and guns he shouldn’t have kept.
Colburn said his decision wasn’t an opinion on right or wrong, but rather an acknowledgement that successful prosecution was not possible.