Murder suspect Fields was offered leniency in exchange for implicating Duebbert in Silas murder, JIB filing says

By Record News | Jun 13, 2019


Robinson and Fee  

SPRINGFIELD – David Fields waited two years in jail for a murder trial when he could have implicated Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert in exchange for leniency at the outset, according to Duebbert’s lawyer. 

“Fields declined the offer because what he was asked to say was not true,” attorney Mary Robinson of Chicago wrote to the Judicial Inquiry Board on May 17. 

Jurors acquitted Fields of the murder of Carl Silas last Dec. 10. 

A complaint before the JIB alleges that Duebbert didn’t provide truthful answers when police questioned him about the murder. 

Robinson wants the board to view Duebbert’s answers in light of his belief that powerful persons planned to frame him for the murder. 

In Duebbert’s objection brief to the JIB, Robinson wrote that a police binder identified him as a suspect, not a witness. He was shaken, vulnerable, and defensive, she wrote. 

Attorney Kevin Fee of Sidley Austin in Chicago, acting as JIB investigator, wants to exclude evidence about the Silas murder investigation, calling it sensational, startling, and irrelevant. 

Duebbert, a Republican, defeated chief judge John Baricevic on Nov. 8, 2016. Baricevic, a Democrat, had created the opportunity by choosing to run for election rather than seek 60 percent approval for retention.  

Duebbert’s victory has proved hollow, as he hasn’t done a day’s work on the job voters tried to give him. 

On Dec. 1, 2016, according to Robinson, Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson told Duebbert he wouldn’t assign criminal arraignment duties to him. 

She wrote that Gleeson said he learned from persons outside the courthouse that Duebbert willingly housed a felon, that other felony judges didn’t think his judgment could be trusted on bond issues and that he didn’t have enough experience. 

“Judge Gleeson repeated that information to Respondent on Dec. 6, 2016, the day after he was sworn,” Robinson wrote. 

On the same date, Robinson wrote, Belleville lawyer Tom Keefe sent an email to the Record indicating that things about Duebbert would be learned in a few days.  

According to Robinson, Keefe wrote that it could make heroin addiction look tame, “with more to follow.”  

“At issue in the election was the failure of Judge Baricevic to do anything with knowledge of a circuit judge’s heroin addiction until another judge died of an overdose, and his resistance to mandatory drug testing for judges,” Robinson wrote. 

On Dec. 9, a newspaper reported that Fields, a parolee, lived at Duebbert’s home until a few days earlier. 

Robinson wrote that Gleeson announced he would restrict Duebbert’s duties and change his assignment based on the information about Fields.   

On Dec. 30, 2016, Carl Silas was killed between 4 and 5 a.m.

She wrote that later in the morning., Keefe sent a series of messages predicting Fields would be identified as suspect. 

Robinson wrote that at the time he made the prediction, the major case squad investigating the case had not been willing to identify a suspect. 

In the meantime, a friend of Fields called Duebbert and stated Fields was a suspect, Robinson wrote, and Fields also called Duebbert to say he had nothing to do with it. 

She wrote that Duebbert told Fields to turn himself in. 

“Fields did so and was in custody no later than 10:30 a.m.,” Robinson wrote.  

After Duebbert spoke to Fields, Robinson wrote, reporters called him asking if police contacted him and what he knew about whether Fields was involved. 

Around 1:15 p.m. that afternoon, Duebbert received a call from an officer and arranged an interview at his home. 

Thereafter, she wrote, Keefe sent an email stating, “Now the question is whether the gun came from Duebbert.”  

She wrote that Keefe sent another message stating, “I know the way John sought reelection was bad but Duebbert is bad news.” 

A reporter then called Duebbert asking about firearms because information was circulating that the murder weapon belonged to him, she wrote. 

“When police came to his home for the taped interview, Respondent did not know that Fields had turned himself in and the officers did not tell him,” she wrote. 

“While Respondent doubted that David Fields was responsible for the Silas murder, and while he knew that no firearm he owned could have been used in the murder, Respondent feared that there was an effort underway to manipulate evidence to tie him to the Silas murder weapon. 

“Respondent will testify that although he tried to appear casual, he was petrified that he would end up falsely implicated in a murder.

“He interpreted the calls from reporters as indicating that those who considered him despicable were planting rumors of connections that could take on a life of their own regardless of whether they had any grounding in fact.” 

She wrote that he answered all questions and that statements the board identified as untrue were not knowingly false, and that he wasn’t thinking particularly clearly but didn’t intend to mislead. 

She wrote that an officer said a rumor could blow up into a scandal.

“The officer stated that the police were committed to disproving any such concern, but Respondent did not believe that that was their goal,” she wrote. 

She wrote that police returned in the evening and accompanied him to a house where his weapons were stored. 

She wrote that they asked him for a phone he allowed Fields to use, and he gave it to them; that they had asked about the phone during the taped interview but hadn’t asked to see it or take it. 

Further, Robinson wrote that lawyer Margaret Lowery would testify that at St. Clair Country Club the evening of the murder, Gleeson’s administrative assistant Mary Brennecke (Berneking) exclaimed, “We got him. We set up Duebbert and his black gay lover.” 

She wrote that Lowery would testify that individuals high-fived each other and talked about having a way to restore Baricevic. 

On Dec. 31, Duebbert retained Daniel Fultz, who contacted police the next day about searches of Duebbert’s phone and the one Fields used. 

She wrote that police asked for more information on contacts with Fields, and Fultz said Duebbert gave Fields the phone when he gave him clothes on Dec. 29. 

Fultz acknowledged that Duebbert didn’t tell them that, Robinson wrote. 

She described the offer of leniency for Fields in exchange for testimony against Duebbert, identifying the source as the state’s attorney. 

Current state police superintendent Brendan Kelly held that office at the time, but he had removed himself from the case. 

Special prosecutor Matt Goetten took charge at the outset, though Charles Colburn would later replace him. 

At trial last July, Colburn presented an evidence expert with little evidence, a fingerprint expert with no prints, and a weapon expert with no murder weapon. 

The first eyewitness performed poorly and the second caused a mistrial. 

At a second trial last December, Colburn didn’t call the first eyewitness and the second testified that witnesses took time getting their story together. 

Robinson’s brief argues that Duebbert does not seek to litigate whether the media or those in power have treated him unfairly. 

For that matter, she wrote, he doesn’t seek to prove that persons seeking to harm him intentionally distorted the investigation.

“Instead, he wishes only to show that he believed he was in harm’s way, that his belief was genuine, that it was not preposterous, and that that belief had a significant impact upon how he answered questions in the police taped interview,” she wrote.

She wrote that the focus on linking him to the murder resulted in interviewers not following up with questions about the topics at issue. 

That factor, she wrote, contributed to gaps in the information he provided. She wrote that he submitted information filling those gaps two days later. 

She wrote that the inquiry board provided him with the full investigative file on the murder mixed with print and television stories about it.

“By the board’s own measure, relevant evidence includes a great deal more than Respondent’s statements in the taped police interview and his testimony before the board, along with whatever evidence the board intends to offer to prove the falsity of those statements,” she wrote. 

On May 22, Fee responded that Robinson’s proposed factual record was sprawling and sensational. 

“Neither Respondent’s subjective mental and emotional state, nor his subjective speculations about the circumstances of his interview, bears on whether deceiving police in a murder investigation violates the code of judicial conduct,” Fee wrote. 

He wrote that the evidence could serve no other purpose than to shift the focus to an exploration of a theory that includes “startling and inflammatory insinuations of misconduct by police and prosecutors.” 

He wrote that by Duebbert’s theory, police somehow conspired with his enemies when they made a routine visit to the former roommate of a murder suspect. 

“Any such attempt to hijack these proceedings into an airing of this kind of unsupported innuendo would be not only irrelevant, inefficient, and distracting, but also highly prejudicial,” he wrote. 

The JIB hasn’t set a hearing date.

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