Judge upholds Bianchi charges, clears co-defendant
A judge Friday refused to dismiss misconduct charges against McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi, but threw out a misconduct charge against Bianchi's lead investigator.
Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw, in a verbal ruling issued in Rockford, gave prosecutors two weeks to decide whether to charge Ron Salgado again, defense attorney Terry Ekl said.
Last week, Ekl argued that three felony misconduct charges against Bianchi should be dismissed because special prosecutors appointed to the case were improperly assigned.
McGraw disagreed with that argument, but concurred with Ekl's argument that the indictment against Salgado failed to state a cause of action.
In other words, Salgado could not have violated a defendant's equal protection under law because Salgado is an investigator, not at a prosecutor.
"(Prosecutors) came up with a theory that had no basis in law," Ekl said. "It once again shows their improper actions in indicting people."
Salgado's attorney, Thomas Popovich, could not immediately be reached for comment, but in the past called the charges a "political witch hunt."
Phone messages left for Henry Tonigan, one of two special prosecutors assigned to the case, were not returned.
Tonigan and Special Prosecutor Thomas McQueen announced misconduct charges in February against Bianchi and investigators Salgado and Michael McCleary.
Bianchi is accused of cutting a year off a plea bargain in August 2010, reducing a five-year sentence to four in favor of Salgado's relative, who was accused of dealing drugs outside an unnamed Crystal Lake high school. Salgado was accused of using his influence to affect the case's outcome.
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. That case eventually was dismissed in August 2010.
The final misconduct charge alleges Bianchi instructed an assistant state's attorney in July 2010 to delay a theft case against Bianchi's distant relative until a first-offender program could be launched in the fall.
Bianchi's case is set for a bench trial before McGraw Aug. 1.
"I hope at some point that McQueen and Tonigan come to their senses and dismiss the case against Bianchi, but we have to prepare for trial," Ekl said.
Bianchi was exonerated halfway through a March trial on charges that he and his personal secretary conspired to use county resources to bolster his re-election campaign.