Article updated: 2/29/2012 3:26 PM

Bianchi case continues with legal fee appeal, court file request

Louis Bianchi

Louis Bianchi

 
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McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi was acquitted twice last year on misconduct charges, but his case continues to send out legal ripples.

The county is appealing a judge's order to pay special prosecutors some $600,000, and Bianchi's attorney is still pushing to have a judge unseal a file of documents used to indict the Crystal Lake Republican in fall 2010.

Judge Gordon Graham will rule March 9 on whether he should unseal a court file that started the whole investigation.

"That file is a public record and the public should have access to it. To seal it, there has to be a compelling reason why the public does not have access to it," said Bianchi's attorney Terry Ekl. "It's been a huge struggle to try and get this unsealed, from my standpoint, an unreasonable struggle."

Ekl and other Bianchi supporters moved last April to have the file unsealed.

Last January, Graham also ruled that McHenry County should pay $600,500 to special prosecutors Thomas McQueen and Henry Tonigan and a computer forensic firm for work on Bianchi's two trials.

The county had been fighting to get the legal bills reduced to a total of about $250,000.

The county argued that Tonigan and McQueen should only charge $91.50 an hour, which is proportionate to the state's attorney's salary, instead of $250 per hour that Graham initially approved and that fees charged by Quest, the computer firm, also were unreasonable.

Attorneys were in court last week and Charles Colburn, a lawyer with the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor's Office who is representing the county on the legal bill matter, said the county plans to appeal Graham's ruling and has 30 days to do so.

Bianchi and his personal secretary, Joyce Synek, were acquitted in March 2011 on charges they conspired to use county resources to further Bianchi's re-election campaign.

Bianchi also was exonerated in August 2011 on charges he improperly interfered and reduced prison sentences or dropped criminal charges for distant relatives and those politically connected to him.

Both trials of Bianchi were ended halfway through by Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw due to lack of evidence. Ekl did not have to call a single witness in either case in his client's defense. Bianchi and Synek have since filed a federal lawsuit against Tonigan, McQueen and others, seeking $15 million for wrongful prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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