Attorney hired to investigate Lake County jail after deaths

Updated 4/25/2012 8:41 PM

An attorney connected to some high-profile political cases has been hired to investigate if misconduct led to the recent deaths of two inmates at the Lake County jail, officials announced Wednesday.

Terry Ekl was hired to lead the investigation, according to a news release issued by the Lake County sheriff's office, which oversees jail operations.


Ekl, a former assistant state's attorney in Cook County, recently defended former Rod Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris against bribery-related charges connected to the ex-governor's corruption case.

Ekl also successfully defended McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi against misconduct charges last year. He now represents Bianchi in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the special prosecutors in that case.

Ekl will investigate if misconduct by Lake County sheriff's employees contributed to the deaths of Eugene Gruber or Lyvita Gomes.

He will also investigate if Gruber or Gomes received proper medical care before their deaths, if existing policies and orders are sufficient to care for inmates and if more training is needed at the jail.

Gruber, of Grayslake, died in March, about four months after a violent confrontation at the jail.

A state's attorney's report says a guard used a neck-twisting "takedown" move while struggling to change Gruber's clothes.

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Gruber was hospitalized in Lake County after the altercation and then transferred to a Chicago rehabilitation hospital. He died at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago.

An autopsy performed by the Cook County medical examiner's office attributed Gruber's death to pneumonia resulting from paraplegia.

A special prosecutor has been ordered to investigate the case.

Gomes, of Vernon Hills, died Jan. 3 after a hunger strike at the jail.

She died at a Waukegan hospital. She was dehydrated and malnourished, an autopsy showed.

No one has been criminally charged in either death. Gruber's family has sued the sheriff's office in federal court.

Although the news release from the sheriff's office said Lake County government hired Ekl, a spokeswoman for the county said the sheriff made the decision.

A sheriff's spokesman couldn't be reached Wednesday.

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