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Article updated: 7/24/2012 8:34 PM

$157K settlement from one defendant in Bianchi conspiracy case

 

Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer Special P

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer McHenry County Sta

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One of the special prosecutors who handled the two failed misconduct cases against McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi in 2011 has agreed to settle a conspiracy lawsuit for $157,500, according to court records.

Henry Tonigan III, a former chief judge in Lake County who is now in private practice, filed the papers this week in the case in which Bianchi, his secretary and two McHenry County investigators accused two prosecutors and a computer firm of conspiracy, manufacturing evidence and malicious prosecution.

"The above-described settlement resulted from the desire of the plaintiff and co-defendant Henry C. Tonigan III to expeditiously resolve disputed issues of fact and law which allegedly existed between them and does not in any way amount to an admission of liability by attorney Tonigan," read part of the settlement.

Tonigan's attorney, Michael Hannigan, did not return a phone message; a woman who answered the phone at Tonigan's law office said he had no comment.

Bianchi and his secretary were indicted in September 2010 on charges they used county resources to further Bianchi's re-election efforts.

Bianchi and secretary Joyce Synek were acquitted on all felony misconduct charges in a March 2011 trial that was stopped halfway through due to lack of evidence.

Bianchi and two of his investigators, Ronald Salgado and Michael McCreary, also were charged in February 2011 with misconduct.

The investigators were removed from the case, but Bianchi was accused of lessening criminal penalties for a distant relative and improperly meddling in a criminal case involving a man politically connected to Bianchi.

In August 2011, Bianchi's second trial also was stopped halfway through because of insufficient evidence. McQueen prosecuted the case by himself as Tonigan asked to be recused to care for his ailing father.

Bianchi and his three co-defendants sued Tonigan, a computer forensic firm called Quest Consultants and a second special prosecutor, Thomas McQueen, in January 2012, seeking $15 million damages.

The latter two are still defendants in the case.

Bianchi's attorney, Terry Ekl, said he was not allowed to comment on Tonigan's settlement.

"The case against McQueen and Quest continues to get stronger and stronger as documents have been produced in the discovery process," said Ekl, who added that Quest is seeking to keep about 17,000 documents strictly in the hands of lawyers and out of the public realm. "There's some devastating documents in there that support our claims."

Steve Puiszis, who is McQueen's attorney in the case, did not immediately return a phone message.

Cynthia Alkhouja, who is Quest's attorney, also could not be reached.

McQueen and other defendants in the case have argued that the lawsuit should be thrown out because the special prosecutors had immunity from liability in the case.

A ruling on that motion is expected in late August.

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