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Article updated: 1/8/2013 12:35 PM

Bianchi attorney wants special prosecutor charged with contempt

By Harry Hitzeman

An attorney for McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi, who was acquitted in two misconduct trials in 2011, has asked a judge to declare a special prosecutor and two investigators to be held in contempt of court.

Attorney Terry Ekl argues that emails obtained through a federal lawsuit filed by Bianchi that special prosecutor Thomas McQueen ignored exculpatory evidence in Bianchi's criminal trials.

"I believe there were egregious violations of court orders," Ekl said. "The emails we received demonstrate that a concerted effort took place to essentially manufacture a case against Mr. Bianchi and (his secretary) Joyce Synek."

The pair were indicted in September 2010 and charged with felonies of misconduct, accused of using Bianchi's office and county resources to further Bianchi's re-election campaign and covering it up.

Bianchi and Synek were both acquitted in March 2011 midway through a trial due to lack of evidence. Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw, who was bought in to hear the case, also acquitted Bianchi in a second trial in August 2011 that again was stopped because of lack of evidence.

In early 2012, Bianchi filed a federal lawsuit against Special Prosecutors Henry Tonigan, McQueen and Quest, a computer forensic firm that assisted in the investigation.

Over the summer, Tonigan settled the federal lawsuit for $157,000 but did not admit wrongdoing; the suit is still pending against McQueen and others.

Ekl argues that emails that McQueen was required to turn over as part of the federal suit show a pattern of ignoring and not disclosing evidence that was favorable to Bianchi and Synek. In one instance, Ekl said, emails from McQueen show that prosecutors were aware that a computer virus wiped out a host of files on a computer in Bianchi's office, put prosecutors ignored this and secured a felony charge against Synek, accusing her of purposefully erasing files.

"We have emails that they knew that before they indicted Joyce Synek. That to me is extraordinarily egregious," Ekl said. "We have emails that show they were willfully withholding favorable evidence."

"I have no comment about any of that," McQueen said when contacted by phone Monday.

Ekl is pushing to have McGraw declare McQueen and two Quest investigators brought up on criminal charges of contempt of court. All sides are due in court Feb. 12.

The federal case is due in court Tuesday. Bianchi has sued in federal court for $15 million, arguing special prosecutors had a conspiracy against him. He also seeks damages for false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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