Gleeson says he won't return judge cleared of charges to bench, but says Duebbert can petition Supreme Court for return

By John Breslin | Jul 9, 2018

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert will remain on administrative duties despite criminal charges against him being dropped last week.

Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson said it's because a separate investigation is ongoing into his connections to alleged murderer David Fields, on claims he gave "false and deceptive" information to police investigating the homicide.

Gleeson said he had placed Duebbert on administrative duties "long before these charges arose."

The Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, which investigates potential misconduct by judges and places its evidence before the Illinois Courts Commission, filed a complaint against Duebbert in April. The commission will decide what, if any, action be taken. 

Gleeson said he has nothing to do with potential "disciplinary matters," and has no ability to remove Duebbert from his position. But he said Duebbert can apply to the Illinois Supreme Court for an earlier return to the bench, but has not done so. 

In the case that was dropped against Duebbert, prosecutors claimed that a 26-year-old former client of then attorney Duebbert, Carlos Rodriguez, was intimidated, and did not want to give evidence in open court and before cameras. The trial was due to start Monday.

But at an earlier hearing, it was revealed that the accuser's lawyer, Alex Enyart, had sent a text message to the prosecutor, Lorinda Lamken, which included the line that his client had "embellished" his claims that Duebbert offered to reduce his legal bill in exchange for a sex act and told him to not tell anyone.

After the case was dismissed Friday, Duebbert's attorney, Scott Rosenblum, said the charges against his client were politically motivated.

Rosenblum said the truth was that the allegations never occurred. He also urged Gleeson to reinstate his client to the bench, saying he should follow the will of the people.

Duebbert, elected in 2016 to the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, has previously said he was a target of various investigations because he is gay and Republican. He narrowly defeated incumbent Democrat, John Baricevic, in the 2016 general election.

He hardly had his feet under the bench when questions began to be asked about his connections to Fields, a convicted felon who temporarily lived at Duebbert's home in Belleville following his release from prison.

On his first day at work, in early December of the election year, Duebbert was told he could not handle felony cases because of this connection to Fields.

Later that month, on December 30, Fields is alleged to have shot dead Carl Silas at his Belleville apartment.  

Duebbert was then accused of giving misleading information to police over his contacts with Fields both the previous evening and on the day of the murder. He was placed on full administrative duties in January.

"These (alleged) deceptions are relevant to an active criminal investigation...and that has not changed," Gleeson said. "The criminal charges (against Judge Duebbert) were not even on the horizon when he was placed on administrative duties so that does not change those circumstances."

However, in the upcoming Fields trial July 23 before St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida, Duebbert cannot be called as a witness, nor his name mentioned, as prosecutors conceded that he is not relevant to the case.  

“Judge Duebbert was not charged in the instant case nor was he a witness to the charged offense,” defense attorneys stated in the motion that was not challenged by the prosecution.

“Mentioning that law enforcement talked to him or checked his home for guns is thus not relevant and should not be allowed to be discussed at trial.”

A St. Clair County grand jury last year also heard information about Duebbert potentially obstructing justice, but did not charge.

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