Not surprisingly, 12 jurors hearing evidence in the Dec. 30, 2016 murder of Carl Silas ruled late Monday night that suspect David Fields was not guilty.
The State argued a pathetically weak case: no murder weapon, no second shooter, no fingerprints, no solid motive (robbery fell apart because nothing of value was taken), no blood stain analysis and a weak processing of the crime scene. The case was built on eye witnesses who contradicted themselves and each other.
In St. Clair County, approximately half the murders result in an arrest, and few murder cases proceed to trial (plea bargains are easier). So, why were taxpayer resources wasted on this case?
Because it could be argued that the real target of the investigation was St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert, a Republican, who defeated former chief judge John Baricevic, a Democrat, in the 2016 general election.
From the beginning of his term, Duebbert has been sidelined from judge duties because of his relationship with David Fields, who had served time in prison for battering a woman. He was released in October 2016 and temporarily lived with Duebbert before the election. Duebbert has described the relationship as just a friendship.
For two years, though, Duebbert has been vilified as a sexual predator, in an apparent effort to shame him into stepping down amidst humiliating headlines and public ridicule.
The other failed attempt at destroying Duebbert's reputation - perhaps spawned by weaknesses in the case against David Fields - occurred in October 2017 through made-up sexual assault accusations from a former client of Duebbert, Carlos Rodriguez. It smelled of phony charges made by those who wanted Duebbert off the bench. That failed prosecution eventually ended after a text message from Rodriguez’s attorney, Alex Enyart, to a special prosecutor got in court filings. The text message was sent before charges were filed and indicated that Rodriguez "embellished" his accusations.
That should have shut down the matter. But it didn’t. The State marched forward for eight more months until a visiting judge dismissed the case on the day trial was to start because Rodriguez did not want to testify.
It cost Duebbert a lot of money in legal fees defending himself in a spectacle that went on for months as numerous news articles repeated the salacious accusations. The Belleville Police Department also stuck a mugshot of Duebbert at the top of its Facebook page from the time he was booked on the phony charges until the case fell apart in front of TV news cameras in the courtroom--their presence is believed to be the first and only extended media coverage allowed by Chief Judge Gleeson in St. Clair County.
Now that Fields has been found not guilty – what will the St. Clair County court system do with Duebbert? Keep him off the bench because the Judicial Inquiry Board still is investigating his alleged obstruction of a murder that David Fields did not commit?
The Judicial Inquiry Board should continue to investigate, only in a different direction. Law enforcement also should make a serious attempt at solving what happened the day Carl Silas was murdered.
And, finally, David Fields spent two years in jail for a crime he did not commit, but was detained for approximately 24 hours after being acquitted.
His attorney, Ryan Neal, said Field’s indictment caused corrections officials to charge him with a violation of supervised release from a previous case, and even though he defeated the Silas indictment, the allegation had remained active.
State officials told Neal that Fields could have remained in custody for another month or two.
That’s how the wheels of justice work in St. Clair County.