Lawyer with dozens of guns seized gets probation

A Crystal Lake attorney who had dozens of guns seized from his home after a DUI arrest in early 2017 pleaded guilty to reduced charges and was sentenced to probation and alcohol and drug treatment this week.

McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather sentenced Donald F. Franz, 51, to 24 months of probation, five days in jail, treatment, and $2,845 in fines and costs after he pleaded guilty this week to felony obstruction of a peace officer and failure to surrender his Firearm Owner's Identification card, a misdemeanor, according to court records.

Other charges — such as the most severe charge of aggravated battery to a police officer, which carried a top penalty of seven years in prison; a felony DUI charge; and a host of weapons charges — were dismissed in exchange for the guilty plea, records show.

Franz, a DUI attorney, was arrested in January after a resident complained about a possibly intoxicated driver. Franz, whose license was suspended, was uncooperative with Crystal Lake police and was charged with pushing an officer with two hands, injuring her finger, authorities said.

Authorities obtained a search warrant for his home after Franz, according to police, was in possession of a loaded gun and had ammunition in his vehicle at the time of his DUI stop. His FOID card and concealed carry permit had been revoked, police said.

Authorities seized 36 high-powered rifles and shotguns, along with 20 handguns and thousands of rounds of ammunition from Franz's residence.

Under Illinois law, people convicted of felonies are not allowed to possess firearms. Crystal Lake Police Deputy Chief Derek Hyrkas said the department is still in possession of the seized guns and they would not be released without a court order.

A message left with the law firm Donahue & Walsh, which represented Franz in the case, was not immediately returned.

The Illinois appellate prosecutor's office handled the case on behalf of the McHenry County state's attorney's office because Franz was a local attorney.

If Franz violates his probation, he could be resentenced to up to three years in prison.

According to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission website, Franz's law license was suspended for two years — and until he has “demonstrated rehabilitation, good character, and current knowledge of the law in a subsequent reinstatement case” — in September.

Franz's name also was removed from the master roll of attorneys allowed to practice in the state in March after failing to register, according to the commission's website.

The suspension, according to the commission, dealt with Franz's interaction with a client, not his DUI arrest.

“(Franz) required his client to sign a $10,000 promissory note as a condition of his continuing representation in a trial. He failed to reduce a contingency fee agreement to writing. He also left voicemail messages for the ARDC, counsel for the ARDC and a client, in which he threatened to inflict physical harm and to kill the administrator and his attorney,” according to the ARDC's website.

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Police seized 36 rifles and shotguns, along with more than 20 handguns and thousands of rounds of ammunition, in January from the Crystal Lake home of Donald Franz. Courtesy of the Crystal Lake Police Department
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