Lake County senator pleads not guilty to harassment
State Sen. Suzi Schmidt pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges stemming from what authorities say was the harassment of neighbors for more than two years over an alleged romantic affair involving her estranged husband.
Schmidt made her first appearance in Lake County circuit court since being charged by the Lake County States Attorney's Office with single misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property and criminal trespass.
Schmidt's attorney's also asked a judge to alter an anti-stalking, no-contact order filed against the former Lake County Board chairman in order to allow Schmidt to return to her home near Lake Villa.
The original order required that Schmidt stay 500-feet from the neighbors, which banned her from her own property, authorities said.
Lake County Judge Mark Levitt kept the order in place and barred Schmidt from having contact with her neighbors, but also allowed Schmidt to return to her home.
Schmidt denied interview requests following the quick court appearance.
The Lake Villa Republican is accused of routinely confronting a neighboring family after suspecting and accusing her estranged husband, Robert, of having an affair with the unidentified female neighbor.
According to police reports obtained after Schmidt's June 12 arrest, neighbors told police they received multiple harassing phone calls, text messages and emails from Schmidt between December 2010 and February 2012.
On June 9, reports state the neighbors accused Schmidt of going onto their property, taking a bag of feed and throwing it into a nearby swampy area near their home.
The allegation led to Schmidt's arrest after a Lake County sheriff's deputy on routine on patrol in Gurnee spotted her vehicle in the parking lot of a home improvement store on the 6600 block of Grand Avenue. She was released the same day after posting 10 percent of her $5,000 bond.
Schmidt continues to serve as the state senator of the 31st District, though the longtime politician chose not to seek re-election this year after facing questions last fall about whether she abused her political influence during a domestic dispute with her estranged husband.
On Christmas Day 2010, Schmidt called 911 and told a dispatcher to ignore calls for help from her husband, whom she had locked out of their home. Schmidt then told the dispatcher her husband is afraid of her "because he knows I have connections."
Schmidt and her husband separated about the same time.