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updated: 2/15/2017 7:29 PM

Former Lake County coroner Rudd charged with perjury over petitions

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  • A Lake County grand jury indicted controversial former coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd on Wednesday on perjury charges alleging he lied on documents relating to his failed re-election bid.

    A Lake County grand jury indicted controversial former coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd on Wednesday on perjury charges alleging he lied on documents relating to his failed re-election bid.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer, 2016

 
 

Controversial former Lake County coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd was indicted Wednesday on five counts of perjury alleging he knowingly lied on nominating petitions when seeking re-election in 2016, court records show.

Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose said about "15 to 20 signatures" on the five petition pages involved in the indictment were proven to be false. One of the signatures was from a person who had been "dead for over 10 years," he said.

A judge approved a $150,000 arrest warrant for Rudd, 70, of Lake Forest after a grand jury handed up the felony indictments early Wednesday morning.

Rudd remained free Wednesday night but was expected to appear in bond court Thursday.

Rudd could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Jed Stone, called him "an American hero" who upset many in power during his four years as coroner in Lake County.

"He's one of the very few elected officials willing to speak truth to power," Stone said. "Thomas Rudd is a talented physician who calls it as he sees it, consistent with science and medicine.

"When you do that, you become a hero, but you also make enemies of people in power," he said.

Because of potential conflicts of interest, Rudd is being prosecuted by the Illinois appellate prosecutor's office instead of the Lake County state's attorneys office.

Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim said questions about Rudd's petitions were brought to his attention more than a year ago, and he turned it over to an independent prosecutor to investigate.

"To avoid any appearance of any conflict of interest or impropriety, I handed it over to an independent prosecutor immediately and they have had it ever since," he said.

Illinois appellate prosecutor Brian Towne said each count alleges Rudd knowingly made false statements under oath regarding his nominating petitions when he was seeking the Democratic nomination for coroner in the 2016 primary. There are a minimum of five pages of petitions where false statements are alleged, he said.

A news release sent Wednesday afternoon said the perjury charges stem from a one-year investigation conducted by Lake County sheriff's detectives and the Office of Professional Standards.

"The sheriff's office received numerous citizen complaints and input regarding this," Rose said. "We are looking into this more, and additional charges are possible, and potentially other people will be involved as well."

Rudd was thrown out of the election in early 2016 because of the nomination papers in question.

He initially filed in November to run as a Democrat in the March primary, but he dropped out after his nominating papers were challenged. He said at the time he would not have enough signatures to remain on the ballot should the objections be upheld.

In June, Rudd filed similar petitions to run as an independent in the November general election. However, Democratic candidate Michael P. Donnenwirth and Waukegan resident Keith E. Turner filed objections to those petitions, claiming Rudd could not run as an independent in the same election cycle in which he filed as a Democrat.

The three-member electoral board upheld the objections in July, as did an appellate court in October.

Rudd ran as a write-in candidate in the November election, but he fell far short of winning.

Rudd stirred controversy on several occasions while serving as coroner between December 2012 and December 2016.

Most notably, he publicly questioned the murder conviction of Melissa Calusinski, a Carpentersville woman imprisoned in connection with the 2009 death of a 16-month-old boy at a Lincolnshire day care center. In that case, Rudd changed the boy's official cause of death from homicide to undetermined, was outspokenly critical of the autopsy conducted in that case and its results, and testified on her behalf in a hearing seeking a new trial.

Rudd also was the first official to publicly question whether Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Gliniewicz was murdered in the line of duty in September 2015. A lengthy investigation later showed Gliniewicz staged his suicide to look like a murder in hopes of covering up his years of stealing from a police department youth program.

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