After receiving his second DUI in two years, former U.S. attorney Stephen Wigginton, 55, will be allowed to keep his driver’s license while his current charges are pending due to scheduling mistake by the Madison County Circuit Clerk's office.
Associate Judge Jennifer Hightower found the state failed to conduct a hearing on Wigginton's petition to rescind within 30 days of its filing, as required by law, and on March 7 ordered his statutory summary suspension be rescinded.
Madison County Circuit Clerk Mark Von Nida said scheduling a judicial hearing on statutory summary suspensions is the responsibility of the circuit clerk’s office.
“The mistake happened in my office,” he said
Von Nida said a total of 10 cases were affected when a long-time clerk made errors in scheduling hearings. Six of those cases were still able to be corrected, and three of the cases were sent to the State’s Attorney’s office to notify them of the mistake.
He said this is the first time he’s seen a hearing mistakenly scheduled beyond a 30-day window since he was elected Circuit Clerk in 2012.
He added that procedures have been put in place to prevent similar errors going forward. Supervisors are now required to check hearing dates to make sure they comply with statutory requirements.
Special prosecutor David Rands, who was appointed after State's Attorney Tom Gibbons declared a conflict of interest - as he did with Wigginton's first DUI - said he could not provide a comment while the case is still pending.
A statutory summary suspension is issued when a motorist refuses to submit to blood alcohol testing or if a test reveals a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more.
Wigginton's license was suspended on Jan. 14, in an order indicating his driving privileges would be suspended for three years beginning Feb. 15. He was expected to be without a driver’s license until Feb. 15, 2022.
Wigginton’s attorney, Curt Dawson of Lucco Brown Threlkeld and Dawson LLP requested a judicial hearing to rescind the statutory summary suspension on Feb. 1.
Dawson requested a hearing to determine several issues, including whether Wigginton was placed under arrest, whether the officer had reasonable grounds to believe Wigginton was driving under the influence of alcohol, whether Wigginton refused to submit to a blood alcohol test after being advised that his driving privileges would be revoked and whether Wigginton was involved in a collision that caused injury or death to another.
According to the police report, Edwardsville officer Nicholas Henderson responded to a Sonic restaurant on New Year’s Eve after an anonymous call was made about suspicions involving a silver Jeep.
Henderson wrote in his report that he spotted the Jeep and as it exited to Plummer Drive and drifted to the center of the road and the oncoming lane. Henderson initiated a stop.
Wigginton advised the officer that he had been a prosecutor for Madison County and the U.S. attorney.
“I observed Wigginton to speak in a mumbled, slow, and deliberate manner as if struggling to organize his thoughts,” Henderson wrote.
The police report states that assisting officer Justin Towell smelled alcohol.
Wigginton told Towell he was staying at Holiday Inn, but told Henderson he was staying at Country Hearth Inn, the report states.
Henderson also wrote that Wigginton stumbled when exiting the Jeep and he stated he didn’t wish to perform tests in front of cameras. He also refused a breath test.
The report states that Wigginton couldn’t follow the eye stimulus and couldn’t keep his balance while listening to instructions; he took six steps and officers had to catch him.
Wigginton was issued tickets for driving under the influence and improper lane usage. He pleaded not guilty on Feb. 1.
Wigginton received his previous DIU after his Cadillac ran off U.S. 40 eastbound from Interstate 55-70 on May 23, 2017, wiping out 40 feet of fence and pulling up five posts.
Wigginton kept driving with a headlight missing, loose parts dragging, and enough damage under the hood of his vehicle to produce smoke and a grinding noise.
In that arrest, Troy officer Bryan Brown reported that Wigginton’s eyes were red and glassy and his speed was thick-tongued. The report also stated that Wigginton told the officer that he drank a glass of vodka.
According to the police report, when Brown asked for identification, Wigginton said, “You know who I am.”
Brown told him he did not know him, and Wigginton responded, “Your boss does.”
Wigginton refused a breath test at the police station and was later charged with driving under the influence, failing to reduce speed, leaving the scene, and lacking a headlight.
Rands negotiated a plea, in which Wigginton agreed to pay $1,500, seek treatment, and spend a year under court supervision, and Rands agreed to dismiss the lesser violations.