The Illinois Attorney General's Office has been appointed special prosecutor in two cases involving a public corruption investigation that includes a series of raids at the Madison County administration building.
In an order filed Sept. 13, visiting associate judge Jerry Crisel of the Second Judicial Circuit officially appointed a special prosecutor after finding that a conflict of interest exists.
Crisel had removed the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office in June from any investigation or prosecution of officials involved in the raids. He directed the Illinois Attorney General “to carry out the task with all deliberate speed.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Andrew McGinley had previously filed a petition to vacate Crisel’s order finding a conflict of interest exists, arguing that the circuit court “is required to contact the Office of the Attorney General to determine if it is willing and able to accept the appointment.”
“Further, the order is not binding because, as the Attorney General’s Office was not a party to this matter at the time the order was entered, this court did not have personal jurisdiction over the Office at the time the June 8, 2008 (sic) order was entered,” McGinley wrote.
However, McGinley filed a motion to withdraw the petition on July 27.
In his order appointing the special prosecutor, Crisel wrote that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan “is willing and able to accept the appointment as special prosecutor.”
The Illinois Attorney General was granted “any and all powers and duties ordinarily granted to the state’s attorney.”
Crisel granted the Illinois Attorney General's Office the power to seek search warrants, request the use of eavesdropping devices, request immunity, seek an order authorizing electronic criminal surveillance, and to seek an order pursuant to the Freedom From Location Surveillance Act.
Crisel’s order also gave the Illinois Attorney General's Office the power to commence and prosecute actions, suits, indictments and criminal prosecutions related to the investigation. Madigan also has the power to convene a grand jury, seek subpoenas and indictments, seek appointment of investigations and present evidence to a grand jury.
The scope of the special prosecutor appointment is limited to the authority to conduct an investigation into criminal offenses committed by any Madison County officials, officers or employees dating back to Dec. 1, 2016.
The Illinois Attorney General's Office has authority over any matters arising from the investigation including criminal offenses committed by people who are not official Madison County employees or officers but relate to the corruption probe.
The Illinois Attorney General also has authority to investigate and prosecute crimes committed with the intent to interfere with the investigation such as perjury, communicating with or harassing jurors or witnesses, destruction of evidence and obstructing justice.
Crisel wrote that Madison County will be responsible for all expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution.
The order was emailed to State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, Alton attorney G. Edward Moorman, McGinley and Deputy Attorney General Stephen Plazibat per request from Crisel.
The investigation became public following a high-profile, mid-day raid on Jan. 10, when computers and other records were taken from the offices of county administrator Doug Hulme, IT director Rob Dorman and the county’s former FOIA officer Cynthia Ellis. Several additional raids were carried out following the initial probe.
The raid was carried out by the Madison County Public Corruption Task Force, which was put together by Gibbons after his office received evidence of possible illegal conduct by unnamed county officials in late 2017.
During the May 10 hearing on the question of a conflict of interest, Gibbons said he called for the formation of the task force in order to keep his office out of the investigation. The task force includes law enforcement officers from the Alton, Edwardsville and Collinsville police departments, as well as officers from the Illinois State Police and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.
The task force carried out an investigation, resulting in the issuance of search warrants and a subpoena which lead to the seizure of items relating to the petitioners in their capacity as Madison County officials.
The question of a conflict of interest with the State's Attorney was raised by Hulme, Dorman, County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler and former county employee Stephen Adler. While Prenzler's office was not subject to the raid, he joined the other county officials as a petitioner in their conflict of interest dispute.
Adler is the current executive director of the Metro East Sanitary District. Because he is not a current county employee, Adler’s case was filed under a different case number.
Hulme and Dorman were present at the May 10 hearing with Moorman. Adler was present with Alton attorney Amy Sholar. Gibbons was present with assistant state’s attorney Jeff Ezra.
While Crisel removed the State’s Attorney from the investigation and prosecution, Crisel denied the petitioners’ request to appoint private counsel at the county’s expense. He found that “the sitting State’s Attorney is still charged with that duty, the conflict having been removed.”
Crisel was assigned to preside over the question of conflict of interest on Feb. 28 after Madison County Chief Judge David Hylla requested a visiting judge be assigned to the case.
Madison County Circuit Court case numbers 18-MR-500173 and 18-MR-500233