Will the prosecution and defense of McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi cost $525,000 or $879,000 or somewhere in between?
That's a question McHenry County Judge Gordon Graham will answer January 20 when he rules on the county's efforts to curtail legal bills submitted by two special prosecutors and a computer consulting firm assigned to look into misconduct allegations.
Bianchi was acquitted in March and August last year in two trials that ended halfway through due to lack of evidence.
Thursday, the county argued to Graham that bills submitted by Special Prosecutors Thomas McQueen and Henry Tonigan and a computer forensic firm, Quest Consultants, should be reduced by nearly 60 percent.
Charles Colburn, an attorney from the Illinois Appellate Prosecutors Office who represents the county in the matter, said the county has been billed $604,050 by McQueen, Tonigan and the computer firm but should only have to pay $249,831 total.
So far, the county has paid $242,399, and if Graham agrees with the county that means the balance would only be about $7,000 more.
"That would be the county's position," Colburn said.
McQueen and Tonigan argue they are owed $241,950 and $142,535, respectively, based on their hourly rates of $250 each.
Colburn has argued that any fees paid to the special prosecutors should be apportioned to the state's attorney's pay, which is about $91.50 an hour.
If that rate was applied, McQueen and Tonigan would get $84,111 and $51,972, respectively, Colburn said.
Quest has billed $219,564 for investigative work for Bianchi's first trial. The county only wants to pay $113,748 and has challenged $23,441 charged by Quest for subpoena service and $82,375 charged by Quest computer expert Daniel Jerger, Colburn said.
The county has argued that the $250 per hour fee charged by Jerger was "unreasonable," Colburn said.
Jerger was one of the prosecution's main witnesses in the first trial of Bianchi, who was accused of using county resources to work on his re-election campaign.
Jerger testified that Bianchi's secretary's computer had some files that appeared to be "hidden" but otherwise offered little else toward a smoking gun or anything that showed wrongdoing.
Last week, the McHenry County Board agreed to pay $275,000 of an estimated $600,000 in legal fees to Terry Ekl and Ernest DiBenedetto, who were defense attorneys for Bianchi and his secretary Joyce Synek.
As part of the agreement, if Bianchi and Synek or their attorneys sue the special prosecutors who investigated them and win, they will give any award they receive back to the county.