A federal judge has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit that McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi filed against special prosecutors and investigators for a computer forensics firm after he was acquitted twice in misconduct trials in 2011.
U.S. Judge Robert Dow last week dismissed the lawsuit "without prejudice" and gave Bianchi's attorney four weeks to refile it.
Contact information ( * required )
In his ruling, Dow rejected arguments that Special Prosecutor Thomas McQueen and other investigators should be held liable for false arrest and conspiracy because they are given absolute immunity when appearing before a grand jury.
Bianchi and his secretary, Joyce Synek, were indicted in September 2010 by a special grand jury on charges they used his office and county resources to further his re-election campaign.
The special grand jury was empaneled after one of Bianchi's former secretaries downloaded and stole 5,000 documents from Bianchi's office to give to one of his political opponents. The secretary, Amy Dalby, pleaded guilty to computer tampering and requested a special prosecutor to investigate Bianchi.
Bianchi and Synek were acquitted in a March 2011 trial that was stopped halfway through due to lack of evidence. In August 2011, a judge also stopped a trial midway through due to lack of evidence and acquitted Bianchi on charges he improperly meddled in criminal prosecutions involving his supporters and distant relatives.
Terry Ekl, who is Bianchi's attorney in the federal lawsuit, said he plans to refile to suit within two weeks.
Ekl acknowledged the case would be tough to prove because of immunities granted to prosecutors.
But Ekl also said he had obtained 17,000 pages of documents that McQueen and others were required to turn over as part of the federal lawsuit and those documents would show Bianchi and others' civil rights were violated before the special grand jury met.
"(Judge Dow) certainly didn't close the door on us," Ekl said. "It is a tough case to prove. The evidence is overwhelming. But certain things they did, they have immunity for."
Matthew Henderson, McQueen's defense attorney, said neither he nor McQueen had any comment on the case.
A second special prosecutor and defendant in the case, Henry "Skip" Tonigan, settled the case over the summer, paying $157,000 but not admitting wrongdoing nor liability in the matter.