Deliberations continue in sex assault case
Jurors deliberated until late Monday night without deciding the fate of a Mount Prospect man charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
For prosecutors, the case came down to power and control: the power and control 58-year-old Herbert Burgess had over the teenage son of a co-worker who he hired, trained and paid to do a temporary job during July, 2011. For defense attorney Eric Rinehart, the case was rooted in deception and the lies he said the teen's father told.
Rinehart claimed the boy's father ó who had been involved in a business venture with Burgess ó perjured himself to profit from an out-of-court financial settlement the family received from Burgess' former employer, the John S. Swift Printing Co., where Burgess worked as the human resources manager and where the boy's mother also worked.
"Just as there is no small injustice, there is no small perjury," said Rinehart, who claimed the boy's father set a trap that involved planting evidence of a semen-stained T-shirt containing Burgess' DNA in his son's room.
Rinehart suggested in his vigorous closing argument that the father controlled his son and encouraged him to lie. Rinehart pointed out what he said were timing inconsistencies in the teen's statement about events that took place on Aug. 8, 2011, the day the boy said Burgess pushed him over the couch in Burgess' living room, then slammed and locked the front door and sexually assaulted him in the bedroom. After the assault, Burgess drove him to his father's Chicago home, the teen testified.
Rinehart also challenged prosecutors on text messages the boy sent and the absence of the boy's DNA on the T-shirt containing Burgess' DNA. The teen claimed the T-shirt was his, while Burgess said it belonged to him.
Rinehart disputed the father's claims that he and Burgess were not in business together, pointing out frequent calls and texts and licenses Burgess obtained from the city of Chicago for a sewer and drainage business they planned to establish.
"Free Herb from (the father's) trap." said Rinehart, who asked jurors to judge the credibility of prosecutors' witnesses and acquit his client.
Lastly, he challenged jailhouse informant William Abruscato, who shared a Lake County jail cell with Burgess last year. Rinehart claimed Abruscato's testimony resulted from a deal he made with Lake County prosecutors to testify in exchange for the reduction of a domestic battery charge to a misdemeanor.
Calling the arguments nonsense, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Gerber bristled that the defense "had the nerve to call this boy a liar after what he's gone through."
Gerber labeled "absurd" Burgess' contention that he withdrew $19,500 from his Des Plaines bank, then drove to a nearby Starbucks where he gave the money to the boy's father as part of their business arrangement. He also questioned why, if the father got money out of Burgess, he would frame his "cash cow" rather than continue collecting money from him. As for Abruscato, he received probation in 2011; there's nothing compelling him to testify now, said Gerber. Rejecting the defense conspiracy theory, Gerber insisted the defendant took a "shy, reserved child ... and used him" and then threatened to have his mother fired.
"This is power, power over an entire family," said Gerber, who claimed Burgess ingratiated himself by buying the teen gifts including a PlayStation 3 and lunches and dinners and by driving him to and from his father's Chicago home every day.
"This is how sexual predators work. They gain control of a child who can't tell anybody. And he didn't tell anybody ... he suffered through it," said Gerber.
Jury deliberation will resume Tuesday.
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