Defense: 2nd Bianchi case is 'fairy-tale'
The defense attorney for McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi on Monday said charges that Bianchi gave special treatment to political donors and the distant relative of a staff member was "fairy-tale stuff."
"The evidence in this case won't even rise to probable cause," defense attorney Terry Ekl told Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw.
Monday's bench trial before McGraw marks the second time Bianchi -- the county's top prosecutor -- has been a defendant this year.
In March, Bianchi and his secretary were acquitted on charges they conspired to use county personnel and resources to further his re-election campaign.
McGraw stopped that trial due to lack of evidence, and the defense didn't even call a witness.
In this trial, Bianchi is accused of two counts of misconduct and, if convicted, could face up to five years in prison. Probation also is an option.
Bianchi is accused of meddling in an investigation of a prominent Crystal Lake doctor who was charged last summer with disorderly conduct, accused of making lewd comments to and harassing a woman.
The case was dismissed Aug. 17, 2010, after the doctor, Thomas Salvi, who ran for state representative years ago, went to counseling and wrote an apology letter.
Special Prosecutor Thomas McQueen argued Bianchi gave Salvi special treatment by dismissing the case with prejudice -- meaning the state could not refile charges in the future. McQueen also noted that Salvi's attorney, Patrick Salvi, contributed $250 to Bianchi's campaign in July 2005 and July 2006.
But Assistant State's Attorney Demetri Tsilimigras, the prosecutor assigned to the case, testified that it was common for some misdemeanor cases to be dismissed if the defendant seeks counseling.
"It's not always about going to trial and winning a case," he said.
Tsilimigras also said Bianchi said if the victim wanted to pursue the case and take it to trial, his office would do that.
Tsilimigras met with the victim to lay out the options -- going to trial, getting a plea agreement or dropping the charges -- and gave her time to think about whether to move forward.
Tsilimigras, who thought the case was weak, also warned that if the defendant were convicted, it was unlikely he'd do any jail time because he did not have a criminal background. Tsilimigras said he had not seen any cases dismissed with prejudice, but it didn't make a difference in the state's eyes.
"We had no interest in refiling the case," Tsilimigras said. "Mr. (Patrick) Salvi asked for it and apparently Mr. Bianchi was fine with it, and that's why it happened."
Bianchi also is accused of giving preferential treatment to Jeremy Reid, a 19-year-old charged in spring 2010 with selling cocaine twice to an undercover officer at Crystal Lake Central High School.
McQueen argued Bianchi should have recused himself from that case because the defendant was a distant relative of one of Bianchi's investigators. Instead, McQueen argued, Bianchi used his influence to get a sentence of four years in prison instead of five years on a reduced charge. The initial charges carried a six-year minimum sentence if convicted.
Assistant State's Attorney Kirk Chrzanowski, the prosecutor assigned to Reid's case, said he was negotiating with Assistant Public Defender Christopher Harmon. Harmon wanted four years, but the state wanted five.
Chrzanowski later met with Bianchi, who indicated four years was OK. Chrzanowski testified he told Harmon at an August 2010 court hearing that the deal was for four years, and Harmon's eyes widened.
Chrzanowski also said Bianchi was at that hearing where Reid pleaded guilty and he saw Bianchi look toward Reid's family. "It appeared (Bianchi) was looking in their direction and made some type of gesture like a nod," Chrzanowski said.
The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case Tuesday morning in McHenry County court in Woodstock.
McQueen also dropped a third misconduct charge that Bianchi intentionally delayed a theft case against Bianchi's nephew until a first-time offender program could be launched.