Kevin Fee, left, prosecuted the case against Duebbert for the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board.
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois court commissioners removed circuit judge Ron Duebbert from office on Jan. 10, finding he misled police and lied to an inquiry board.
“Giving false testimony under oath is an affront to our system of justice where truth and the sanctity of the oath are paramount,” they wrote.
Commissioners found he led police astray and misdirected a homicide investigation.
They found he didn’t acknowledge or recognize his wrongdoing.
At a public hearing last October, Duebbert testified that he was petrified when police questioned him about the murder of Carl Silas.
He said he told police he feared that murder suspect David Fields would be killed.
He said he received calls from reporters trying to connect him to the crime.
Commissioners found his testimony about the calls extraneous.
“He was motivated to shift the focus away from his involvement with Fields and discussed press coverage and that reporters had contacted him,” they wrote.
“Respondent placed a higher value on his reputation and position as a judge over providing truthful statements to the police, which we cannot overlook.”
They found testimony of state police agent Patrick McGuire and Madison County detective Timothy Lawrence “credible, believable, and without bias.”
Voters in the 20th Circuit elected Duebbert in 2016, despite news that Fields lived in Duebbert’s home after serving time for domestic battery.
After the election, Fields moved to his mother’s house.
On Dec. 29, 2016, at a Belleville gas station, Duebbert gave Fields a bag with his possessions including a cell phone.
On Dec. 30, 2016, Silas died in an apartment off West Boulevard outside Belleville.
Sheriff Rick Watson summoned the Major Case Squad, which assembles police from all over the region for rapid response.
Duebbert, upon learning Fields was a suspect, told him to turn himself in.
Prosecutors charged Fields with murder and sought to indict Duebbert for obstruction of justice.
Grand jurors cleared Duebbert six months later and jurors at trial acquitted Fields two years later, but the outcomes didn’t figure into the removal of Duebbert from office.
Commissioners focused on the day of the murder, when McGuire and Lawrence questioned Duebbert at his home.
Commissioners found McGuire and Lawrence were making sure Fields hadn’t stolen one of Duebbert’s firearms.
Duebbert told them his weapons were at a friend’s house.
Police asked him if he had a cell phone with his name on the account, and he said he received it back when Fields moved out.
They asked if he had it and he said he did.
Lawrence testified that he didn’t ask Duebbert for the phone because it wasn’t pertinent since Fields hadn’t possessed it for a month.
Duebbert told them if he heard from Fields, he would advise him to turn himself in.
Duebbert testified that he was “petrified that these people were not my friends, nor were the people that were trying to associate me with the murder.”
“I had been told that the minute that even the mere allegation that my firearm was used in a crime would end my career,” Duebbert testified.
McGuire and Lawrence returned to his house because the “650” phone was used.
He gave it to them and said he found it.
McGuire, Lawrence, and Duebbert confirmed at the friend’s house that all weapons were there.
McGuire and Lawrence returned there with a warrant for Duebbert’s cell phone.
They found contact between Duebbert’s phone and the 650 phone.
Lawrence testified that it surprised him because at no point in time had they been told or believed that the phones were in contact.
Duebbert’s lawyer contacted the squad two days later to disclose information he hadn’t disclosed.
Duebbert testified at his hearing that he believed he told McGuire and Lawrence he communicated with Fields after they interviewed him on camera.
Commissioners found, “Based upon all the evidence, we flatly reject any suggestion that respondent informed the officers about his text communications and phone call with Fields in an alleged off camera interview.”
They rejected as false his testimony that he understood the question, “Do you have a phone,” to mean who owned the line and not who had physical possession.
They found that for a former defense attorney and an elected judicial officer to make such an argument was insulting and disturbing.