McHenry County on hook for $600K for special prosecutors in Bianchi trials
McHenry County residents will be on the hook for more than $600,000 to pay special prosecutors and a computer forensic firm for two trials of State's Attorney Louis Bianchi last year.
Bianchi was acquitted of misconduct on March 2011 and August 2011 and the county board has been fighting to get the legal bills charged by Special Prosecutors Henry Tonigan and Thomas McQueen, along with Quest Consultants, reduced about 60 percent to about $250,000 from $605,000.
The county argued that Tonigan and McQueen should only charge $91.50 an hour, which is proportionate to the state's attorney's salary, and that Quest's fees also were unreasonable.
But McHenry County Judge Gordon Graham disagreed, only slicing about $5,000 from what Quest charged.
"We're getting the $250 per hour that Judge Graham authorized us to be when we were retained," McQueen said after the hearing. "This is about a judge reviewing the work product and determining whether win or lose those are reasonable fees for what was done."
Both trials of Bianchi, a Crystal Lake Republican, were ended halfway through by Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw due to lack of evidence. Bianchi's defense attorney did not have to call a single witness in either case.
The breakdown of the fees is: Tonigan gets $142,285.38; McQueen gets $242,697.50 and Quest receives $215,522.59.
McHenry County Board Chairman Kenneth Koehler called the amounts billed "ridiculous" and a "blatant overcharge." He said the county would appeal Graham's decision.
"That is the ongoing folly of a runaway farce of a case," Koehler said. "We will appeal it, no doubt about it. It's been such a waste of taxpayer money. We firmly believe the judge went way out of his bounds."
If the county loses its appeal, the entire case could cost about $876,000.
Earlier this month, the county board agreed to pay $275,000 for the defense bills for Bianchi and his personal secretary Joyce Synek, who also was exonerated in the March 2011 trial.