After 6 years of delays, Melodie Gliniewicz avoids trial, pleads guilty to one charge

Melodie Gliniewicz pleaded guilty Friday morning to one felony count of deceptive practices in connection with financial misdeeds committed by her late husband, Joseph Gliniewicz, a former Fox Lake police officer.

Joe Gliniewicz staged his own death on Sept. 1, 2015, to appear as if he'd been gunned down in the line of duty in order to head off revelations that he'd been stealing money from a police youth program, according to authorities.

Melodie Gliniewicz's guilty plea is part of a deal her legal team made with prosecutors to avoid the trial set to start Tuesday.

The charge is punishable by up to three years in prison. But prosecutors said Friday they would argue for a sentence of felony probation. Gliniewicz's attorneys will argue she should receive what is called second-chance probation, an option for some first-time offenders.

Attorney Don Morrison of Kelleher + Holland LLC, part of Gliniewicz's legal team, said the difference between the two punishments is that regular felony probation would result in a conviction on her record for the rest of her life. But if the judge decides she deserves second-chance probation and successfully completes the requirements, the case essentially would be dismissed.

Judge James Booras will make that decision at a sentencing hearing on April 12. Booras said Friday that while it is not "etched in stone," he strongly will consider sentencing Gliniewicz to second-chance probation.

At sentencing, attorneys for both sides might present evidence and call witnesses to testify, which could allow the public a chance to learn more about what investigators determined Gliniewicz's role was in her husband's crimes.

Investigators said the funds stolen from Fox Lake Police Explorer Post 300 were spent on things such as vacations, mortgage payments, gym memberships, pornography websites, numerous coffee shop purchases, theater tickets and more than 400 restaurant charges.

In interviews with police after her husband's death, Gliniewicz said she and her husband "borrowed" from the explorer post but repaid what they took, according to court documents.

The trial had been postponed for years by legal battles over the admissibility of messages between the spouses. According to court documents, police asked Gliniewicz about texts between them found on her husband's phone making reference to "hiding money."

The Friday hearing started with Assistant State's Attorney Jeffrey Facklam and Morrison telling the judge they had a potential deal in place. Then Booras and the lawyers discussed the deal in his chambers for about 30 minutes.

After Gliniewicz had a chance to speak with her attorneys about how the meeting with the judge went, Booras asked her a series of questions about whether she understood the deal to which she was agreeing.

Gliniewicz, who had a pocket full of tissues, answered the judge's questions in the affirmative, the only time she spoke at the hearing.

As part of the deal, the 10 other charges against Gliniewicz were dropped, including felony counts of disbursing charitable funds without authority for personal use and money laundering.

She will not be required to go to jail before the sentencing hearing. In 2016, Gliniewicz put up $5,000 in cash the day she initially was charged in order to leave jail and has been out ever since.

Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said he is pleased Gliniewicz is taking legal responsibility for her actions.

"She deceived the Fox Lake Police Explorer Club and misused their funds," Rinehart said. "Our lawyers did an excellent job of reaching this negotiation as it foregoes the need for a trial and starts to end a long chapter in this story."

Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit thanked Rinehart's office in a statement for reaching a resolution in the case.

"I also want to thank the residents of Fox Lake for their support and understanding as the state's attorney worked through this legal process," said Schmit, who has been mayor since 2013. "We are pleased this is behind us."

Melodie Gliniewicz
Melodie Gliniewicz leaves the Lake County courthouse in Waukegan after pleading guilty to one felony count of deceptive practices Friday. courtesy of ABC 7 Chicago
Joseph Gliniewicz
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