BELLEVILLE – The Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint against St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert Thursday, alleging he provided false and misleading information to police that contradicted his testimony regarding a phone he loaned to murder suspect David E. Fields.
The complaint charges Duebbert with conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice and brought the judicial office into disrepute.
The two-count complaint makes allegations of false and misleading statements to police and false and misleading testimony before the Judicial Inquiry Board.
It provides details of an interview Duebbert had with Belleville police in the afternoon of Dec. 30, 2016, that was conducted because of Duebbert's relationship to Fields, accused in the murder of Carl Silas earlier that morning.
It also details Duebbert's testimony at the JIB last year, which the complaint says contradicts statements he made to police regarding the phone - where it was at the time of the murder and whether there had been contact between the two after the murder and before the interview, among other contradictions.
The Judicial Inquiry Board’s trial counsel Kevin M. Fee of Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago is prosecuting the complaint.
Duebbert could not be reached for comment.
According to background in the complaint, beginning in 2015, Duebbert periodically provided Fields with a cell phone to use, referred to as “the 650 phone” in the complaint.
The 650 phone was in Duebbert’s name and he paid the monthly bill, but Fields was the phone’s primary user when it was in his possession.
The complaint states that Duebbert also possessed and operated another cell phone, referred to as “the 117 phone” in the complaint.
Duebbert had met Fields in 2013 before he was sworn in as a judge and was practicing law at Duebbert Law Offices in Belleville. Fields pled guilty to aggravated assault on a pregnant person in the summer of 2015 and was sentenced to jail.
Prior to incarceration, Fields returned the 650 phone to Duebbert, where it remained until Fields was released from custody on Oct. 24, 2016.
Upon his release, Duebbert submitted multiple applications to the Illinois Department of Corrections seeking approval for Fields to reside at Duebbert’s Belleville home. Those requests were denied until Duebbert removed firearms from his home.
Fields moved in with Duebbert on Nov. 4, 2016. Four days later, Duebbert was elected circuit judge in St. Clair County as a Republican.
Fields kept and used the 650 phone for several weeks after his release, including during the period when he was living in Duebbert’s home.
Fields moved from Duebbert’s home to his mother’s home in Shiloh on Dec. 2, 2016. Duebbert was sworn in as judge on Dec. 5.
About mid-December 2016, Duebbert retook possession of the 650 phone.
The complaint alleges that after Duebbert took possession of the phone, but before Dec. 29, 2016, Fields contacted Duebbert and requested to use the 650 phone again.
On the evening of Dec. 29, 2016, Duebbert allegedly met with Fields at a gas station parking lot in Belleville and gave him a bag containing various personal effects belonging to Fields that had been stored at Duebbert’s home. The complaint states that prior to or during this meeting, Duebbert returned the 650 phone to Fields.
The complaint alleges Duebbert and Fields communicated during the night of Dec. 29, 2016, through text messages exchanged between the 650 phone and Duebbert’s 117 phone.
Around 5 a.m. on Dec. 30, 2016, Silas was murdered at a Belleville apartment, and Fields was identified as a suspect shortly thereafter.
Later that morning, Dubbert received a call from a woman identified as an acquaintance of Fields who informed him that she had heard that Fields was involved in a murder.
Shortly after the woman’s call, Duebbert received a call from Fields himself from a phone belonging to a different female acquaintance. Duebbert's and Fields's conversation lasted just over three minutes, the complaint states.
By no later than noon on Dec. 30, 2016, Duebbert was aware that Fields was a murder suspect.
By about 1:15 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2016, two police officers involved in Silas’ murder investigation contacted Duebbert and requested to speak with him. Officers met with Duebbert at his home at approximately 3:45 p.m., where they conducted a video and audio recorded interview regarding the Silas murder. The interview lasted approximately one hour, the complaint states.
During the interview, the officers asked Duebbert about the use and whereabouts of the 650 phone.
“The phone, I determined that it wasn’t smart to let him [Fields] have that phone. So I took it back. Actually I didn’t. My sister had it. So he doesn’t have it right now,” Duebbert said.
He added that the 650 phone number “is not his [Field’s] phone number anymore.”
“Do you have that phone?” one of the officers asked Duebbert.
“I do,” Duebbert answered.
“How long ago did you have it back for? Roughly. I don’t expect you to know the exact day,” an officer asked.
“Early December, late November. I don’t know. I said you gotta get your own phone here. And he said he would,” Duebbert responded.
The complaint alleges Duebbert’s statements were “false and misleading.”
Duebbert’s statements suggest that he maintained continuous possession of the 650 phone between last November or early December 2016 and the time of the interview on Dec. 30, the complaint states.
However, Fields regained possession of the phone and had it the night before the interview. He had even used the phone to communicate directly with Duebbert just hours before Silas’ murder, the complaint states.
In regards to the status of his contact with Fields, Duebbert stated near the end of the interview, “And if I think of anything else, if he contacts me, I’m going to one, tell him to turn himself in. Number two, I will let you know. But he hasn’t.”
Duebbert then pointed to his 117 phone lying on the table in front of him and said, “I mean, here it is. I’ll let you know everything.”
Duebbert reiterated later in the interview that he had not been contacted by Fields.
“And again, I haven’t. If I’m contacted, I will tell him exactly what I said, because I’m very worried,” Duebbert told police.
While Duebbert told the officers that he had not heard from Fields, he had withheld the three-minute conversation he had with Fields earlier that day, the complaint states.
The complaint also alleges Duebbert withheld additional facts “that he knew were relevant to the investigation the officers were conducting, including the Dec. 29 gas station meeting or their text messages the night before.
The complaint states that Duebbert concealed his communication with Fields but identified other, less pertinent calls and communications that had occurred over the previous two days.
“Respondent’s conduct during his interview was prejudicial to the administration of justice and brought his judicial office into disrepute,” the complaint states.
Then on May 12, 2017, Duebbert appeared before the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board and testified under oath about the events at issue in the Board’s investigation of his alleged misconduct.
He returned June 9 to complete his sworn testimony before the Board.
He testified that he believed the 650 phone was in Field’s possession and that he told the officers during the Dec. 30, 2016 interview that it was in Field’s possession.
He further testified before the Board that after the interview he discovered the 650 phone was sitting in his garage, saying he was “totally and utterly in shock and stunned.”
He added that he thought “this is surreal. This is like a bad nightmare.”
When asked why, he answered, “Because it couldn’t be there because I had given him [Fields] the phone before.”
Duebbert testified that during the interview, he had informed the officers that he exchanged text messages with Fields the previous night, however, the JIB complaint alleges that never happened.
He also testified that Fields contacted him on the morning of the murder and that he advised Fields to turn himself in and get a lawyer. He further testified that he informed officers of the conversation.
“He told the police no such thing during the interview,” the complaint states. “In fact, Respondent told the police that he hoped to tell Fields to turn himself in if he heard from him, which he said he had not.”
The Board requests the Illinois Courts Commission make an order in accordance with Section 15 of Article VI of the Illinois Constitution as the Commission may deem appropriate, based on Duebbert’s alleged conduct.