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updated: 8/22/2011 5:40 PM

Embattled Kane coroner seeks to have charges tossed

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  • Chuck West

    Chuck West


The attorney for embattled Kane County Coroner Chuck West argued Monday that misconduct charges against his client should be thrown out because the coroner's statute is unconstitutionally vague.

West, 68, of Elgin, was charged last year with taking a 24-inch television, DVD-VCR combo from the home of a Carpentersville man who died in the spring of 2007.

If convicted of the felony charges, West faces up to five years in prison. Probation also is an option.

Defense attorney Gary Johnson argued that the statute, which requires the coroner to dispose of "valuable" property from the home of the deceased, is vague because the definition of "valuable" can vary.

Johnson said lawmakers are very specific in defining crimes, such as felony theft of more than $300 or felony retail theft of $150, but erred when spelling out the coroner's duties.

"(Lawmakers) let their guard down and they used the word 'valuable,' " Johnson said. "Value has such a subjective definition to it."

Appellate Prosecutor Charles Colburn disagreed, saying the coroner's duties were clearly spelling out to prevent the coroner from essentially looting a dead person's home.

Colburn stressed that West and his staff arrived at the home in spring 2007 and found piles of clutter stacked five feet high. Still, they sorted through the mess and took out military knives, videos, costume jewelry and other items that were sold at an estate sale that netted $445, Colburn said.

He added that there has never been a challenge citing vagueness to the coroner's statute since it was enacted in 1990.

"There was never any question by this coroner," Colburn said, referring to West. "Only after he is charged with violation of this statute (does he claim it is vague)." Judge Bruce Lester will issue his ruling Sept. 22.