A witness for St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert was prepared to testify that his accuser fabricated all of the claims that led to felony criminal sexual abuse and intimidation charges brought against him last year.
The charges pending against Duebbert for eight months were formally dropped July 6 after accuser Carlos Rodriguez indicated he did not want to testify in court for a trial that was set to begin on Monday.
Maria Duebbert, who had worked as office manager for her brother's Belleville law practice before he was elected judge on Nov. 8, 2016, said Rodriguez "never showed up" at the office on the day he claimed attorney Duebbert offered to reduce his legal bill in exchange for a sex act
Prosecutors filed felony charges against Duebbert on Nov. 6, 2017, relying on an affidavit from Rodriguez in the case Duebbert represented him in before the election. Rodriguez wanted to withdraw his guilty plea for fleeing a Centreville police officer. At first, he swore in an affidavit on Sept. 15, 2017, that it was because Duebbert didn't tell him he'd lose his license with the guilty plea. But then he changed his affidavit on Sept. 27, swearing that in Duebbert’s office, after a court date, Duebbert grabbed his penis through his underwear.
Rodriguez claimed that happened on Oct. 14, 2016, the day he was arraigned on aggravated fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer.
But Maria Duebbert said in an interview Tuesday that he did not come to the office after that court appearance.
She said that date was a Friday, and no one came to their office that day. She said she has written records - paper and electronic - to support her statements.
"We didn't make appointments on Fridays," she said.
Maria said Rodriguez came to the office on Nov. 22, 2016, two weeks after the election, because the attorney who took some of her brother's cases after the election, Dedra Brock-Moore, had made the appointment. Rodriguez needed to sign a bond assignment, in the underlying Centreville arrest case, so it could go to Brock-Moore.
Maria said Brock-Moore was at their office that day handling appointments for new clients that had been Duebbert clients. She said that Rodriguez arrived and signed paperwork in her presence, as she is a notary. She said Rodriguez was never alone in the office with her brother.
The allegations made by Rodriguez were "totally made up," she said, and was not surprised that he did not want to testify.
"What he forgets, other people know," she said.
Client had 'embellished'
In the weeks leading up to Duebbert's trial date, text messages between Rodriguez's attorney, Alex Enyart of Belleville, and special prosecutor Lorinda Lamken-Finnell, were disclosed in the case file.
One of those messages from Enyart to Lamken-Finnell - two weeks before charges were filed against Duebbert - indicated that his client had "embellished."
As for Rodriguez, he ended up pleading guilty on March 5 this year to fleeing police in the underlying Centreville arrest, bargained down from a felony to a misdemeanor with no punishment.
Special prosecutor Jeremy Walker - Randolph County State's Attorney - agreed to drop a felony charge of aggravated fleeing, and visiting Judge Thomas Dinn of Benton accepted the plea and ordered Rodriguez to pay court costs.
In his original plea, Rodriguez accepted two years of probation, drug treatment and a $500 fine.
Assistant state’s attorney Megan Lintker handled the Rodriguez prosecution and Circuit Judge Jan Fiss presided.
“Defendant will be placed on 24 months’ election of treatment probation,” Lintker told the court.
The Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) evaluated Rodriguez and “found that there was a link between his criminality and substance abuse,” Lintker said.
“The defendant will therefore undergo alcohol and drug treatment pursuant to that TASC evaluation which I believe is intensive outpatient treatment."
She said Rodriguez would pay court costs, probation fees, a $500 fine, and that he would submit a DNA sample and pay an analysis fee.
Fiss asked Rodriguez if he understood that he could receive one to three years in prison, and Rodriguez said yes.
He confirmed that he understood he gave up the right to trial, the right to remain silent, and the right to have the state prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
When Fiss asked Lintker for a factual basis, she detailed his arrest.
On Sept. 25, 2016, Centreville officer Middlebrook observed a white Mitsubishi on Bond Avenue, traveling 30 to 40 miles per hour above the limit of 45.
Lintker said the officer initiated his lights and the car continued traveling. The officer initiated his siren and the car continued traveling.
“As they approached the 9900 block of old St. Louis Road, the car increased speeds to 75 to 80 miles per hour in a 45 mile an hour speed zone,” she said.
Lintker said the car swerved between several cars at an intersection. The officer noticed smoke and smelled a burning odor; the car rolled to a stop in the left turn lane at the intersection of Route 15 and North 74th Street; and the driver waived his Miranda rights.
“He stated that he was speeding, going about 75 or 80 miles per hour,” Lintker said. “He never saw the lights or heard the sirens. He wasn’t trying to run from the police and he admits to be weaving in and out of traffic.”
Fiss asked Rodriguez how he wished to plead, and Rodriguez said guilty.
Fiss ordered probation, court costs, DNA sampling, and a fine.
He said Rodriguez could appeal the sentence.
“You must first file a written motion to withdraw your plea of guilty,” Fiss said. “If that motion is allowed, the sentence would be modified and judgment vacated and trial date set.”
Rodriguez then retained Enyart, who moved to withdraw the plea.
Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson asked the Supreme Court for an outside judge, and state’s attorney Brendan Kelly asked Gleeson for a special prosecutor.
The Supreme Court ordered the chief judge of the Second Judicial Circuit to assign a judge, and the chief judge assigned Dinn.
Gleeson chose Walker as prosecutor.
Another visiting judge, Michael McHaney of Marion County, presided in the charges against Duebbert and on Friday dismissed the case.