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updated: 9/23/2011 4:21 PM

Coroner's bid to dismiss misconduct charges fails, trial likely

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  • Chuck West

    Chuck West


The misconduct case against Kane County Coroner Chuck West appears to be headed to trial.

A Kane County Judge Friday declined the latest attempt by the 68-year-old Elgin Republican to dismiss charges that he stole a television from the home of a dead Carpentersville man in 2007.

Judge Bruce Lester ruled that the state's coroner's statute is not unconstitutionally vague.

Lester said there was no previous case law nor legislative acts to rely upon, but noted the term "value" can be defined in two ways, such as an item's worth in the marketplace or its utility to someone, even if it's sentimental value.

Lester noted that even though the television in question was used, someone could easily find out its worth on a website like eBay.

"The statute as drawn in the matter in using the word 'value' provides a sufficient and alternative clarity," Lester said.

Defense attorney Gary Johnson had argued last month 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.

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

Colburn said West and West's staff arrived at the Carpentersville home in spring 2007 and found piles of clutter, but sifted through the mess and took out military knives, videos, costume jewelry and other items that were sold at an estate sale that netted $445.

Both sides are due in court again on Oct. 19.

A trial date has not been set, but after Lester's ruling, Johnson said he expects the case to go to trial.

Johnson said his client has not decided whether to have a jury trial or a bench trial in front of Lester.

If convicted, West faces up to five years in prison, but probation also is an option.

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