Inappropriate conduct by Lake County courthouse guards alleged
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The defense attorney for a Gurnee woman convicted of a 1999 armed robbery inside a Park City mobile home is requesting a new trial because two courthouse security guard trainees acted inappropriately during her October trial.
The former guards admitted they gave their cellphone numbers to two people associated with the trial of Sandra Lopez, 43, between Oct. 20 and 24.
Both men said under oath Tuesday they were fired by the Lake County Sheriff's Office after details about their conduct surfaced.
The guards, who were being trained during the trial on courtroom procedures, are not identified by the Daily Herald because they have not been charged with a crime.
One trainee admitted to Judge John T. Phillips he slipped his name and cellphone number to Lopez's daughter while on a brief break during jury selection before the start of the trial. He said he gave her the cell number to give to a friend who was watching the trial with family members.
The other trainee admitted he briefly spoke with an alternate female juror during the four-day trial before slipping his cell number into her lunch while she was sequestered at the courthouse.
The woman did not serve as one of the 12 main jurors, he testified Tuesday, and was not sequestered with the main jury when they were deliberating a verdict. He told Phillips the two texted on and off for a couple of days after the Lopez verdict, but never discussed the trial.
Defense attorney Christopher Lombardo said he brought the misconduct to light because it could force Phillips to declare a mistrial in the case. If that happens, Lopez would most likely be retried at a later date.
Lopez is awaiting sentencing after she was found guilty of home invasion and armed robbery of a mobile home in the 3500 block of Howard Street in 1999.
Lopez worked with a family member to push inside the mobile home while wearing a wig and colored contact lenses, authorities said, and used a knife to threaten two women inside — one of whom was pregnant.
The victims were bound with duct tape and the mobile home was ransacked, authorities said. The victims later freed themselves and called police.
Before being charged with the crime, Lopez had fled to her native El Salvador, where she remained until returning to the United States in 2012, authorities said.
She was arrested in 2012 after a traffic stop in Bloomington, Ill, officials said.
Lopez faces up to 30 years in prison, authorities said. Her sentencing date will be decided after Phillips rules on the mistrial Jan. 27.
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