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updated: 7/10/2012 9:04 PM

Plainfield juror who skipped trial avoids jail

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  • Scott Enke leaves federal court Tuesday in Chicago after chief judge James Holderman sentenced him to community service and a $1,000 fine for contempt.

      Scott Enke leaves federal court Tuesday in Chicago after chief judge James Holderman sentenced him to community service and a $1,000 fine for contempt.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

A traveling salesman from Plainfield who, fearing he was about to lose his biggest client, suddenly left on a business trip to Iowa in the middle of a trial where he was serving as a juror has become a symbol all-too prevalent disregard of the jury service, a federal judge told the man at his sentencing hearing.

But the chief judge at the U.S. District Court in Chicago stopped short of imposing a jail term on Scott Enke, 33, and instead fined him $1,000. Judge James Holderman also ordered him to write an essay for publication on the incident and told him to attend a symposium later this year on the jury system.

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Minutes before, an apologetic, deferential Enke stood ram-rod straight at a lectern, repeatedly apologizing and saying he now knew what he did was wrong.

"Everyone I know has seen or heard of this," the successful medical-devices salesman said about the media coverage in the Chicago area, adding that people continuously stop him and his relatives to ask about what he did. "It's been tough. ... It's made me look dumb."

Enke had said earlier that he felt pressure to go on the 220-mile trip to Iowa City to meet with a hospital client, in part because it was displeased with his service and he thought he might lose the contract. He also initially said he had called the trial judge's office and thought he'd been excused for the day -- though he didn't make that argument at Tuesday's sentencing.

After he failed to show up for the trial March 8, presiding trial Judge Suzanne Conlon threw him off the jury hearing a criminal health care fraud trial. She then referred Enke to the chief judge for rare punishment proceedings against a juror.

At Tuesday's hearing, Holderman eschewed the tough tone he struck in his earlier written ruling and praised Enke.

"I appreciate your change in attitude and your understanding of your responsibilities," he said. "I believe this has been an educational process ... one that may ultimately benefit our country."

Holderman seemed intent on sending a message further afield for Americans to take jury duty more seriously, noting that in some districts more than a third of those summoned to report for possible service on a jury don't bother showing up.

In his written opinion, he said such a devil-may-care attitude about jury service undermines the foundation of the justice system.

"This attitude needs to change ... or the jury system will not continue as a viable institution of fairness and justice," he wrote. "It is vital that all citizens participate on juries and not sell their birthright for a mess of pottage."

Asked by Holderman on Tuesday about what his message would be to others selected to serve on a jury, Enke responded, "I would ... reiterate the repercussions if you don't show up."

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