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posted: 3/12/2012 5:57 PM

Unsealed Bianchi file shows how legal bills topped $600K

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  • Lou Bianchi

      Lou Bianchi

 
 

A review of the recently unsealed file containing information about the two failed prosecutions of McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi in 2011 contained little information as to why the file was sealed and impounded in the first place.

Bianchi was acquitted twice last year: in March 2011 on corruption charges alleging he used county resources to further his re-election campaign and again in August 2011, alleging he used his influence to lessen criminal penalties against distant relatives and those politically connected to him.

The Crystal Lake Republican was indicted in fall 2010 and again in February 2011.

McHenry County Judge Gordon Graham originally granted a request on Dec. 3, 2009, from Special Prosecutors Henry Tonigan and Thomas McQueen have the file sealed and impounded indefinitely.

There were no supporting documents or written motions in the court file stating why the file needed to be sealed.

Until last Friday, McQueen had objected, saying in an Oct. 21, 2011, court hearing that he didn't "see any reason that Mr. Bianchi's political supporters ought to be raking through the file of the investigation that led to his indictments."

On Monday, Tonigan said sealing a file was a "routine occurrence" and that he didn't want his legal bills to give away his strategy.

"We certainly don't want to tell the whole world the nature of the investigation until later in the proceedings," he said, declining to elaborate.

On Oct. 1, 2010, Graham OK'd a request to "expand the investigative and prosecutive authority" of Tonigan and McQueen after they said one of their investigators received a tip from a former assistant state's attorney that Bianchi was meddling in cases of people connected or related to him, court records show.

Bianchi, along with two of his investigators, were indicted in February 2011 on misconduct allegations.

A review of legal bills submitted by Tonigan, McQueen and a Quest Consultants, a computer forensics firm, also showed how the bill for McHenry County taxpayers ballooned to more than $600,000.

Tonigan's billing records didn't go into intimate detail; meetings and interviews with people other than Judge Graham, McQueen or his own investigators with a "county official" or a "witness," records show.

The county only wants to pay about $250,000 and has appealed an order to pay $600,500.

Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw stopped both of Bianchi's trials halfway through due to a lack of evidence.

Bianchi has sued Tonigan, McQueen and others in federal court for $15 million, alleging a conspiracy and malicious prosecution.

Bianchi's attorney Terry Ekl, who pushed to unseal the file, could not be reached for comment Monday. He had argued there was no legal reason the file should have remained sealed after his client was acquitted twice.

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