More charges against Bianchi; investigators also indicted

  • Special Prosecutors Thomas McQueen, left, and Henry Tonigan announce more misconduct charges against McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi and two of his assistants Monday in Woodstock.

      Special Prosecutors Thomas McQueen, left, and Henry Tonigan announce more misconduct charges against McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi and two of his assistants Monday in Woodstock. Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

  • Louis Bianchi

    Louis Bianchi

 
 
Updated 2/28/2011 5:08 PM

Special prosecutors widened their net Monday around embattled McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi by announcing more criminal indictments that he and an assistant brokered deals to lessen criminal penalties for relatives and campaign donors.

At an afternoon news conference, Special Prosecutors Thomas McQueen and Henry Tonigan outlined misconduct charges against Bianchi and his chief investigator, Ronald Salgado.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Bianchi already faces misconduct and corruption charges from September that he had county employees work toward his re-election efforts on county time.

The trial against Bianchi and his personal secretary, Joyce Synek, is scheduled for March 21 in Woodstock.

"The case that's pending against Lou is extraordinarily weak. It's a pile of crap," said Bianchi's defense attorney, Terry Ekl. "They're trying to dirty him up. It shows desperation on their part."

Ekl called the new allegations "malicious" and a "very expensive witch hunt" by Tonigan and McQueen.

The new charges -- unsealed by a grand jury this month -- charge that Bianchi in August 2010 chopped a year off a plea bargain, reducing a five-year sentence to four, against Salgado's nephew, who was accused of dealing drugs outside an unnamed Crystal Lake high school.

Bianchi also is accused of meddling in a disorderly conduct case against a defendant who he knew and had contributed to Bianchi's campaign. The indictment alleges that Bianchi ordered an assistant state's attorney to meet with the victim and offer a written apology from the defendant in exchange for the charges being dropped.

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The case eventually was dismissed in August 2010.

Bianchi also is accused of instructing an assistant state's attorney in July 2010 to delay a theft case against Bianchi's nephew until a first-offender program could be launched in the fall.

Overall, Bianchi has three more charges of misconduct; Saldago has one.

Salgado's attorney, Thomas Popovich, also called the allegations a "political witch hunt" of an "innocent man."

"He's done nothing wrong," Popovich said of his client, who is due in court on March 9. "He'll continue in his capacity on behalf of the citizens of McHenry County."

Also, Michael McCleary, an investigator in Bianchi's office, is accused of using a county vehicle for personal use from January 2007 through Sept. 10, 2010.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The defense attorneys for McCleary could not immediately be reached for comment.

The misconduct charges carry prison terms of two to five years if convicted, but probation also is an option.

Tonigan and McQueen declined to elaborate on any of the new charges, but said it would not affect the March 21 trial.

McQueen also was vague on whether more charges could arise from the investigation. "The grand jury is done right now. It is still in existence. It was empaneled for 18 months," he said.

Bianchi referred media inquiries to Ekl, who said his client has no intention of stepping down.

"(Bianchi's) spirits are terrific. This does not come as a total surprise to us," Ekl said. "If anything, this increases his resolve to continue to do the job he was elected to do."