Judge to decide if Mooseheart sex abuser who's served his time will be released from custody

  • Chad Wahl has been held by the state's Department of Human Services since his release from prison in November 2013.

    Chad Wahl has been held by the state's Department of Human Services since his release from prison in November 2013.

 
 
Updated 6/7/2019 9:43 PM

A Kane County judge in August will decide whether a former Pekin man, who was convicted in 1994 of criminal sexual abuse at Mooseheart School near Batavia and sent to prison, should be involuntarily committed to the Department of Human Services under the state's Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act.

Chad Wahl, who turns 50 Saturday, was released from prison in November 2013 but has been held at the state's Rushville Treatment Center after a judge ruled there was probable cause to confine him.

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In the Aug. 6 bench trial, Kane County Judge Clint Hull will decide whether Wahl should be committed to the Department of Human Services for treatment until he is no longer deemed a danger.

Under the 1998 law, prosecutors must show: a person has been convicted of a sex crime, has been diagnosed with a mental disorder, and is "substantially probable" to reoffend, as determined by a jury or judge.

This is a different burden of proof from a criminal case, in which a defendant must be proven guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt."

"These cases are quite complex, and it's not unusual for them to take several years to go to trial," said Wahl's defense attorney, Nate Nieman. "It's more the norm than the exception. There's a lot of expert issues, evidentiary issues, and constitutional issues that need to be litigated before an actual trial is held."

Wahl was arrested in March 1992, fired from his job, convicted and sentenced to 21 years in prison in early 1994. At the time, prosecutors argued Wahl, then 24, got a job as a "house parent" in October 1990 at the facility for troubled youths near Batavia, according to court records. He started a "reward program" to allow boys to sleep on a living room floor on Fridays and Saturdays and watch movies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He would shower his victims with gifts, ordering them not to tell anyone. The victims were ages 9 to 13.

In the past 5½ years, Nieman has argued to have letters Wahl wrote in prison banned from trial, and that pedophilia is not a universally accepted mental illness. A judge denied both arguments.

Nieman has not disclosed a list of witnesses for the trial and he declined to specify what, if any, treatment or counseling Wahl has undergone since his prison release. Two forensic psychologists have evaluated Wahl and concluded he was a risk to reoffend, according to court records.

"It's the (attorney general's office's) burden of proof to show that he will be (a danger to reoffend)," Nieman said. "My client doesn't have an extensive criminal history like many SVP respondents have. This was his first conviction for a sex offense, usually SVP committees have multiple criminal convictions."

The attorney general's office has successfully argued to have more than 300 people committed since the act was passed.

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