Sen. Suzi Schmidt charged with damaging neighbor's property

Schmidt arrested Tuesday night

State Sen. Suzi Schmidt, who faced questions last fall of abusing her political influence during a domestic dispute, was arrested Tuesday on charges of damaging her neighbor's bag of feed, according to police.

Schmidt was also charged with criminal trespass to property and was served with an emergency stalking no-contact order, according to the Lake County sheriff's office.

Schmidt's Lake Villa neighbor had warned her to stay off his property in the recent past, and the sheriff's office obtained a warrant for her arrest last week after she went back on his property and damaged the bag of feed, police said.

“They can warn you, you are not welcome here, then if you violate that, they can have you arrested,” said Lake County sheriff's Police Chief Wayne Hunter. “There has to be some type of forewarning.”

A sheriff's deputy in a marked car was on patrol in Gurnee early Tuesday evening when he spotted the former Lake County Board chairman's vehicle in the parking lot of a home improvement store on the 6600 block of Grand Avenue, Hunter said.

“Her car is very distinct,” he said.

The deputy was aware of the warrant and told Schmidt she was under arrest on the two misdemeanor counts. Hunter said Schmidt was surprised by the arrest and was unaware of the warrant. He said she was cooperative during the arrest.

About two hours after the 5:15 p.m. arrest, Schmidt posted 10 percent of her $5,000 bail and was released from custody, police said.

Schmidt could not be reached.

Word of Schmidt's arrest spread quickly Tuesday night, and political leaders from both sides of the aisle agreed that if it was not for a Christmas Day 911 call and Lake County police reports, the situation would not be significant.

“Let's put it this way, if the other hadn't happened this wouldn't be in the spotlight,” said Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat.

Link said he does not expect the arrest to keep Schmidt from Springfield if state legislators are called back to tackle the state's deeply troubled pension system.

“We have somebody in the house who is under a more severe criminal case and he is still casting votes,” Link said, referring to Rep. Derrick Smith of Chicago, who is accused of taking a $7,000 bribe. “There's something that is quite severe.”

Lake County Republican Chairman Bob Cook said he heard of the arrest but would not comment on the impact, if any, it will have on Schmidt's influence.

“I think she's actually been doing a pretty good job down in Springfield,” Cook said Tuesday night. “Obviously today is a different story, but I don't know all the facts.”

Schmidt, who is serving her first term as a senator after a 23-year stint on the county board — including a record 10-year tenure as chairman — announced she would not seek re-election in late October after a series of domestic incidents at her home became public.

The incidents surfaced last September and involved a situation on Christmas Day 2010 when Schmidt called 911 and told a dispatcher to ignore calls for help from her husband, whom she had locked out of their home.

Schmidt told the dispatcher her husband is afraid of her “because he knows I have connections,” and in a separate situation, she told a deputy her husband was trying to derail her Senate career.

Suzi Schmidt and her husband Robert separated in the fall.

In early October Schmidt said she would remain in office and run again despite the controversy surrounding the domestic situations, but she reversed the decision later in the month.

Schmidt won the 31st Senate District seat, which covers northern Lake County in 2010 by defeating Democratic incumbent Michael Bond.

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