DuPage County Judge Patrick O'Shea was negligent when he accidentally fired a revolver through his wall and into a neighbor's apartment, but a Kane County judge ruled Friday those actions did not meet reckless conduct requirements.
Judge Keith Johnson found O'Shea not guilty, ruling prosecutors failed to prove key components of the charge.
The state did not prove anyone's life was in danger because prosecutors were unable to prove anyone was home in the unit where the shot was fired or anywhere else in the vicinity, Johnson said.
He also signed an order allowing to O'Shea to retrieve two pistols and 49 other guns from the Wheaton Police Department, once his FOID card is reinstated by the Illinois State Police.
O'Shea declined to comment. His attorney, Terry Ekl, said they expected and were pleased with the ruling.
"The reason they didn't allege in the complaint that he endangered someone is because he didn't," Ekl said. "There was no evidence anyone was even in the building at the time the gun went off, so it could not be reckless conduct. And he should never have been charged with reckless conduct."
The complaint against O'Shea, 67, stems from Sept. 15, when authorities say he fired a bullet through a common wall in his Wheaton apartment. His neighbors later found a bullet in their living room.
The complaint says O'Shea "pulled the trigger without first determining that the firearm was not loaded, causing the firearm to discharge, causing a bullet to enter the living area of the adjoining apartment."
A neighbor noticed a hole in a living room wall after returning home from work Sept. 15 and reported it to the apartment complex's management office, according to a Wheaton police report obtained by the Daily Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request.
On Sept. 24, the neighbors told police they found what appeared to be a spent bullet on the floor. They turned it over to police, along with photographs of their damaged wall.
Police reports say O'Shea gave property managers and police at least three excuses for the hole, including he accidentally put a screwdriver through the wall while hanging a mirror, and his son accidentally caused the hole while using a pneumatic nail gun.
In his ruling, Johnson expressed concern with O'Shea's lies but said they alone did not prove reckless conduct.
"I would just be speculating, but I think, like most human beings, he knew he did something wrong. He knew he was negligent and didn't tell the truth about what happened," Ekl said. "But when the police came, within five to 10 minutes of them arriving, he told them exactly what happened."
Special Prosecutor Dave Neal, of the Illinois Office of the State's Attorney Appellate Prosecutor, said he was disappointed with the ruling but found it well-thought-out. He said he expects his office will work with legislators to change the law so "people can't just be firing guns into their neighbor's apartments."
"More troubling to the people of Illinois is that Judge O'Shea told lie after lie after lie. And the judge made a finding that he lied repeatedly," Neal said.
O'Shea had been free on a $5,000 recognizance bond. He was removed from all judicial duties and banned from the DuPage County courthouse after his arrest.
Chief Judge Daniel Guerin released a statement Friday stating he "intends to meet with Judge O'Shea next week to discuss the status of his judicial duties."