A Cook County judge found a Des Plaines attorney guilty of indirect contempt of court Wednesday, ending a saga that began two years ago when the lawyer didn't show up for a jury trial.
The lawyer, former Des Plaines police sergeant Wayne Adams, was fined $286 by Judge Martin Agran, who presided over the one-day trial. It was Adams' second trial, which the Illinois Appellate Court ordered last year after reversing Adams' original contempt conviction from 2011.
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Agran ruled that the fine was satisfied by the short stint Adams served in Cook County Jail after Judge Alfred Levinson found the onetime Des Plaines alderman guilty of disrespecting the court in October 2011. That contempt ruling came after Adams failed to return after a lunch break for a jury trial he had requested on behalf of a client charged with a traffic offense related to a minor accident.
Both Adams and Levinson ended up on the witness stand in the new trial, as did Arlington Heights prosecutor Ernest Blomquist, the opposing lawyer in the traffic offense case.
Adams testified that he left the Rolling Meadows courthouse to attend a real estate closing in Chicago. But Levinson testified Adams did not inform him or Blomquist about the scheduling conflict and that they did not learn of it until an associate of Adams arrived to tell them the lawyer would not return that day for the trial. Levinson subsequently appointed another lawyer to represent the woman, who was found guilty at a bench trial.
Adams insisted he tried to cover both matters but was unable to do so. He defended his decision before Agran last week, arguing that his failure to appear at the real estate closing would have resulted in a greater harm. He further testified that he informed his client he wouldn't return and instructed his associate to inform the court of the situation, which she did.
"I still don't feel I showed any contempt. I tried to do the best that I could," said Adams after the hearing, adding that he never intended to disrespect Levinson.
Agran sympathized with Adams' predicament, observing that lawyers at small firms or in solo practice often find themselves handling multiple, conflicting matters. But it didn't change his finding.
"What you needed to do was explain the conflict you had," Agran said. "You made a wrong choice that day."