Family of slain Elgin teen wants harsher charges. What would it take for that to happen?
The family of an Elgin teen stabbed to death last week during a fight in Schaumburg wants to challenge the Cook County state's attorney's decisions on charging the accused perpetrator.
Manuel Porties Sr. told Daily Herald reporter Eric Peterson on Monday the family is seeking to hire an attorney in an effort to get more serious charges brought against the 17-year-old who killed his son, Manuel Jr. Initially, the teen faced a misdemeanor weapons charge, but the state's attorney's office confirmed Friday that had been dropped. The investigation is ongoing.
What would it take to push for stronger charges, and what are its chances of success?
To find out, we went to Northwestern University law professor Locke Bowman, who has led a pair of successful legal fights to have special prosecutors appointed in high-profile cases when the Cook County state's attorney took a pass.
One of them involved the killing of Mount Prospect resident David Koschman, who died after a 2004 altercation with the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. In that case, county prosecutors chose not to charge Richard J. Vanecko, who knocked Koschman to the ground outside a Rush Street bar in Chicago, causing him to strike his head on the pavement and suffer a fatal brain injury.
Bowman represented Koschman's mother, Nancy Koschman, as she sought a special prosecutor to investigate her son's death, amid allegations Chicago police and the state's attorney gave Vanecko a break because of his family connections.
After the appointment of attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor, Vanecko was indicted and pleaded guilty in 2014 to involuntary manslaughter.
Bowman, executive director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, also represented community members when they successfully petitioned for a special prosecutor to examine torture accusations against disgraced former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
While he couldn't comment on the specifics of the Porties case, Bowman said state law allows just about anyone to seek the removal of an elected state's attorney from a case.
If a judge agrees, the Illinois attorney general and other county state's attorney's offices will be asked to take over. If they're not able or willing, an attorney in private practice can be appointed, such as in the Koschman case.
The catch? For any of that to happen, the petitioner needs to show that the state's attorney has a conflict of interest, Bowman said.
"The obvious situation is if some family member of the state's attorney were to get in criminal trouble," he said. "In the Koschman case, the argument was that there was a conflict in the sense that there was an appearance of impropriety because of the political connection between the prosecutor (former State's Attorney Anita Alvarez) and the alleged perpetrator's family."
Proving such a conflict is complex, Bowman said, and courts generally are cautious about appointing special prosecutors.
"I think there's a notion that you shouldn't make a habit out of it," he said.
Short of proving a conflict of interest -- and no one has alleged State's Attorney Kim Foxx has one in the Porties case -- there's little reason to hope for a special prosecutor. There's no legal path to getting a prosecutor removed simply because you disagree with a charging decision.
"And I would go as far as to say I don't think there should be," Bowman said.
"As a matter of public policy, it would create all sorts of problems if every time somebody didn't agree with the decision the prosecutor made, they could run to court and ask for a do-over."
60 more years for former teacher
If there was any doubt Carlos Bedoya was going to spend the rest of his life in prison, it was removed Oct. 1.
That's when Bedoya -- already sentenced to 112 years in prison in 2019 for sexually abusing a child -- pleaded guilty to 12 more counts of sexual abuse involving other children. He received 60 more years.
Given that he's already 66 years old, there seems little chance the Lake in the Hills man will ever see freedom again.
Bedoya was a substitute teacher at a Carpentersville elementary school and coached soccer at the Boys and Girls Club of Dundee Township when he committed his crimes. His victims were in kindergarten through third grade, authorities said.
Judge knows his animals
We wonder if lawyers in a DuPage County animal cruelty and neglect case knew that when Judge Robert Miller was assigned to preside, they were getting somebody who had more than a little experience handling animals.
As he announced his guilty verdicts last week in the trial of Garrett Mercado -- a Woodridge man who operated a kennel where 29 dogs died as a result of a fire -- Miller revealed that he has shown dogs at competitions.
He also used to walk dogs at the DuPage County animal shelter on his lunch hour, he said. And as a youth, he spent a summer at a stable, mucking out horse stalls, he added.
Mercado, 32, could receive up to a year in jail at his sentencing hearing before Miller, which is scheduled for Oct. 22.
'Not' a typo
An Elmhurst woman has been found not not guilty of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child under the age of 13.
You read that right ... two nots.
The unusual ruling by DuPage County Judge John Kinsella means Renee Kearley, 52, will remain in custody at a state mental health hospital, with periodic reviews of her mental fitness.
Kearley, who initially was charged in August 2016 with assaulting a child with whom she was acquainted, had been found mentally unfit to stand trial several times since.
With questions about her fitness still lingering five years later, preventing a trial and verdict, the "not not guilty" finding allows Kearley to remain in custody while final judgment in the case is deferred until she is deemed fit.
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