BELLEVILLE – Visiting judge Michael McHaney, after predicting that jurors would convict Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert of sexual abuse if he allowed testimony from an alleged victim 18 years ago, decided to allow the testimony.
At a hearing on April 13, McHaney ruled that Wayne Scott could tell jurors about allegations he reported to Belleville police in 1999.
Earlier in the hearing, McHaney had told special prosecutor David Robinson that, “If it comes in, he’s guilty.”
“He’s toast,” McHaney said. “It’s over.”
Robinson responded, “He may be toast but he’s the one that pushed the lever on the toaster.”
McHaney later confessed confusion over the trial date and set it July 9.
Former Duebbert client Carlos Rodriguez of Belleville claims Duebbert grabbed his penis and offered to reduce his fee in exchange for oral sex.
The alleged crime occurred in 2016, while Duebbert practiced in criminal defense.
Rodriguez retained Duebbert after Centreville police arrested him and pressed a felony charge of aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude.
After voters elected Duebbert, Rodriguez retained other counsel.
He pleaded guilty last August.
Circuit Judge Jan Fiss fined him $500, placed him on two years probation, and ordered drug and alcohol treatment.
In September, Rodriguez moved to withdraw his plea.
His lawyer, Alex Enyart of Belleville, attached to the motion an affidavit in which Rodriguez accused Duebbert.
Fiss vacated the plea in October.
Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy Walker, as special prosecutor, approved a guilty plea on a misdemeanor charge without any fine, probation, or treatment.
Meanwhile, special prosecutor Robinson turned Rodriguez’s affidavit into indictments against Duebbert on charges of sexual abuse and intimidation.
Robinson, lacking an eyewitness, moved to allow Scott to testify.
Scott posted his accusations on YouTube at the height of the judicial campaign, about two weeks before the 2016 election.
Robinson lacked an eyewitness for Scott, so he identified three witnesses who would otherwise corroborate his testimony.
At the hearing, Robinson told McHaney there was no question that Duebbert committed a bad act some time ago. He said Scott and Rodriguez were in disproportionate relationships with Duebbert.
“Many of the same things that were said to the victim in this case were made to Mr. Scott,” Robinson said.
He said Duebbert acted as their attorney in a position of power.
“They’re looking to him for guidance,” he said.
He said both cases involved payment for services rendered.
“The physical and demographic similarity between these two victims cannot be ignored,” he said.
“This case is going to be a he said she said case.”
McHaney asked Robinson if allowing Scott’s testimony would force Duebbert to testify in his own defense when he has a right not to do that.
“That’s baked into the cake,” Robinson said.
He said Duebbert has first class representation that would impeach Scott.
Defense counsel Scott Rosenblum of Clayton, Mo., said it not only would force Duebbert to testify but would also lower the burden of proof.
Rosenblum said Scott made a report to Belleville police but didn’t have enough to go trial, and that a police report was the most reliable evidence.
He said he didn’t think there was an attorney client relationship 18 years ago.
He pointed out that Scott sought out Duebbert.
“There was absolutely no discussion of payment 18 years ago,” he said,
He said Rodriguez gave a statement after seeing Scott on YouTube.
“They have an extremely weak case and they are boot strapping allegations that have changed over the last 18 years,” he said.
McHaney asked if the Legislature knew when they enacted the statute that they
would make it easier to convict.
Rosenblum answered that he had his “own view on that.”
He said the Legislature also wants to not open the floodgates.
Robinson said Rosenblum’s complaint was with the Legislature, not the court.
“This is precisely the kind of case they envisioned,” Robinson said.
“The whole point of this, your honor, is that it’s prejudicial. The question is, is it unduly prejudicial?”
Rosenblum said the police report referred to a statement that no longer exists, and said it was critical to Scott’s credibility.
McHaney said, “Now we get into the mini trial.”
He asked Robinson if there was a written report.
Robinson said there was and a report and Scott had it sealed.
McHaney asked Rosenblum if he asked for it.
Rosenblum said, “I have not. I saw what was provided.”
After granting Scott’s testimony he asked Robinson about the seal and Robinson said, “We will work on that.”
Robinson said there is a collateral investigation, plainly referring to persistent efforts to connect Duebbert to the murder of Carl Silas in 2016.
“The FBI opened a phone that hadn’t been opened,” Robinson said.
He said if it impacted this case, he’d get it to the defense as soon as possible.
He said there was also a text message from the victim’s lawyer.
Rosenblum said it was hard to comment, in a tone that made Robinson interrupt.
He told McHaney the defense feels the prosecution lacks transparency.
“That’s absolutely not true,” Robinson said.