Appellate court reinstates Bianchi's malicious-prosecution suit

Former McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi's malicious-prosecution lawsuit against a special prosecutor and investigators has been reinstated by an Illinois appellate court.

Although prosecutors enjoy absolute, or sovereign, immunity from lawsuits in cases they prosecute for the state, the defendants in this case aren't automatically protected because they are being accused of violating state or constitutional law, or acting in excess of their authority, the 2nd District Appellate Court ruled Thursday.

And a DuPage County circuit court judge's ruling that the case belonged in a different court ­­— the state's Court of Claims ­— was wrong too, the three-judge panel ruled.

So the case brought by Bianchi and several of his office's employees against special prosecutor Thomas McQueen and computer-forensics investigators from Quest Consultants International is being returned for trial.

Bianchi contends McQueen and the investigators made up evidence that damned him, and hid evidence that would have helped him, when he was being accused of official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

It's yet another chapter in a long saga.

Bianchi was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008 and 2012.

In 2007, he obtained a special prosecutor to investigate whether a secretary in his office had stolen thousands of documents when she quit her job, then released them to the media and Bianchi's political opponents. The secretary, in turn, claimed she had been asked to do political work for Bianchi on county time.

Two special prosecutors, including McQueen, were appointed by a McHenry County judge to look into the secretary's claims for possible criminal charges.

Bianchi and his executive assistant were indicted on charges of official misconduct, accused of using county resources for political campaign work. Bianchi, plus an assistant state's attorney and an office investigator, were also later charged with obstruction of justice over accusations lesser penalties were sought for defendants they knew or who were politically connected to Bianchi.

A Winnebago County judge dismissed the charges in the middle of each trial, saying prosecutors had not proved their cases.

The same judge also heard a contempt-of-court charge against McQueen in 2014 but acquitted him, saying the evidence presented was not “beyond a reasonable doubt” that McQueen had willfully withheld required information from a grand jury or the other special prosecutor.

However, the judge sharply scolded McQueen, saying he had found McQueen's actions to be “revolting,” unconscionable” and “repugnant,” that there was evidence that court orders had been violated, and that special prosecutors and investigators had “abused their office” to “wrongfully prosecute innocent people based on evidence they knew was deeply flawed or did not exist.”

The state appellate court did agree that a claim of defamation against McQueen should be dismissed.

McQueen could not be reached for comment Friday.

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