Jailhouse informant: Defendant threatened accuser
As the sexual assault trial of Herbert Burgess entered its third day Thursday, a jailhouse informant testified Burgess told him he was going to have his accuser beaten with a baseball bat and killed in an attack made to appear gang-related.
William Abruscato, Burgess' Lake County jail cellmate for several months last year, testified that Burgess told him about what prosecutors say were several sexual assaults Burgess committed in August 2011 against a then-15-year-old boy at Burgess' Mount Prospect apartment and at a Lake County printing company where Burgess and the boy worked.
Burgess has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denies the allegations, which defense attorney Eric Rinehart suggested were made up by the teen's father for profit. Rinehart referred specifically to a financial settlement he says the boy's family reached with the John S. Swift Printing Co. which employed Burgess and the victim. Burgess, a former human resources manager, no longer works for the company
Abruscato said Burgess told him the teen ó who had a summer job at the Buffalo Grove printing company ó liked older men and was attracted to Burgess.
Jailed on domestic battery charges at the time, Abruscato recalled Burgess told him several times, "no (victim), no case."
"He was going to have the boy beat up with a baseball bat and killed and make it look like it was gang-related," testified Abruscato, who said he took the statement seriously.
He testified he contacted a priest and later told his attorney Douglas Zeit, who contacted Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Kenneth LaRue, who arranged a meeting at which Abruscato repeated his story to Buffalo Grove and Mount Prospect police detectives.
Abruscato further testified that Burgess told him the boy's mother worked for him too, and that he threatened her job if the boy said anything.
Under cross examination, Abruscato admitted his "checkered past," which includes a six-month stint in prison in 2009 and a 2010 misdemeanor DUI his attorney said was amended to reckless driving. Abruscato denied making a deal for probation with Lake County prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against Burgess, whose case involving the same victim is still pending in Lake County.
LaRue denied giving Abruscato "consideration" in exchange for his testimony, which comes one year after a judge sentenced him. He added that he offered Abruscato probation because "that's what the facts merited."
Thursday's proceedings concluded with testimony from the father of the now-16-year-old victim, whom the Daily Herald is not identifying to protect the identity of the victim. The father denied being in business with Burgess but admitted under Rinehart's direct examination that they had an agreement to make money together.
"He made a lot of promises, but I found out he had no money," said the father.
The father denied receiving money from Burgess or having dinner with Burgess and his son. He also denied that Burgess gave his family gifts. That contradicted the victim's testimony that he, his father and Burgess went to restaurants several times, and that Burgess gave the teen clothes and a PlayStation 3, among other items.
The trial continues Friday with closing statements.
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