Appeals court reverses Lake County judge, rules Gliniewicz texts admissible
In a blow to the defense of disgraced Fox Lake police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz's widow, a state appeals court has ruled that prosecutors can use incriminating text messages between her and her husband if she goes to trial on accusations she helped embezzle thousands of dollars from a youth program.
The unanimous decision from the Second District Appellate Court states that Melodie Gliniewicz waived her right to marital privilege when she discussed conversations with her husband in police interviews after his suicide and gave investigators permission to search her phone.
The ruling reverses a Lake County judge's decision last year that said prosecutors could use texts found on Melodie Gliniewicz's phone, but marital privilege barred more incriminating messages pulled off her husband's phone.
"Defendant might not have realized the impact of her disclosure of her communications with Joe, but once she intentionally revealed those communications, the 'secret is out, it is out for all time, and cannot be caught again like a bird, and put back in its cage,'" Justice Joseph E. Birkett wrote.
Lake County State's Attorney's Office spokesman Lee Filas declined to comment on the ruling, but said the office is prepared to take the case to trial.
Authorities allege Joe and Melodie Gliniewicz stole thousands from the Fox Lake Police Department's Explorer post to pay for personal expenses, including a trip to Hawaii, movie tickets, pornography websites and more than 400 restaurant charges.
The accusations surfaced after Joe Gliniewicz was found shot to death in a secluded area of Fox Lake on Sept. 1, 2015. Investigators initially believed he was shot in the line of duty, but later determined he killed himself hoping to prevent exposure of his alleged crimes and made it appear as if he'd been gunned down.
In interviews with police after her husband's death, Melodie Gliniewicz said she and her husband "borrowed" from the Explorer post, but repaid what they took, court documents state. However, documents also indicate police asked her about texts between them found on her husband's phone making reference to "hiding money."
The case against Melodie Gliniewicz, 54, of Antioch Township, has been on hold since April 2019 while both sides awaited the appellate court's finding. The case now returns to Lake County court for further proceedings.
Gliniewicz is charged with unlawful use of charitable funds, conspiracy and money laundering. She has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond while awaiting trial.