Former judge sentenced notorious killers, but his legacy is as an advocate for mental health

As a Kane County judge for 16 years, Donald C. Hudson presided over trials for some of the suburbs' most notorious killers.

They included Luther Casteel, sentenced to death for a deadly 2001 mass shooting at an Elgin bar; Edward Tenney, convicted of the 1993 slaying of dairy heiress Mary Jill Oberweis; and Christopher Martin, found guilty in the 1996 hate-fueled killing of a gay man in Huntley.

But Hudson's lasting legacy won't be about those he locked away. It will be about those he helped remain free - free from substance addiction, debilitating mental health struggles and the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

Hudson died Tuesday at his home in St. Charles after a battle with cancer. He was 74.

"Sadly, the Kane County justice system has lost three decades of judicial wisdom with the passing of Justice Don Hudson," retired Judge Judith Brawka said in an announcement of Hudson's passing. "As a colleague, he was always supportive of his fellow judges and never hesitated to share his time and knowledge. He did not create or tolerate drama in any legal proceedings, and he demanded no more of the lawyers and parties than he did of himself."

A former prosecutor in Kane, the Chicago native was appointed to the bench in the county's 16th Judicial Circuit in 1993. In 2004, he was appointed as the circuit's chief judge.

It was in that role that Hudson established the Treatment Alternative Court, or mental health court. The specialty court offers nonviolent offenders struggling with mental health issues a way to avoid conviction and possible incarceration by completing a strict program involving treatment and other assistance.

"It's about establishing a program that improves the quality of life in the community and the people whose mental illness they have no control of," Hudson said at the court's inaugural graduation ceremony in 2008.

Since then, the court has helped dozens of people get the help they need while staying out of the system. The National Alliance on Mental Illness honored Hudson in 2014 for his work on the life-changing program.

Until his death this week, Hudson served as a justice on the Elgin-based Illinois Second District Appellate Court, deciding appeals from across the suburbs and northern Illinois. He was assigned to the role by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2009, a posting he called "absolutely the pinnacle of my career."

Judge Clint Hull, the current chief judge in Kane County, recalled starting his legal career as a traffic court prosecutor in 1993 and being assigned to Hudson's courtroom.

"I look back at those years so grateful that Judge Hudson was the first judge I appeared in front of," Hull said. "He was respectful to all those that appeared before him, always prepared, and so helpful in teaching me and countless other young attorneys the skills necessary to be successful attorneys.

"He cared deeply about the 16th Judicial Circuit and all the people that worked on its behalf. His impact will be felt for years to come. He will be missed."

Visitation is scheduled for 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Malone Funeral Home, 324 E. State St. in Geneva.

Prelaw rocker

Hudson will best be remembered for his years on the bench, but his judicial colleagues this week also recalled his years on the stage - as the lead guitarist of a '60s rock band called Edges of Wisdom.

According to the announcement of his death, Hudson performed with the band while in high school, playing to crowds as large as 500 and even releasing a single of a song he wrote called "That Lonely Road."

Colleagues said Hudson didn't often speak about his rock 'n' roll days, but when he did, he couldn't hide the broad smile that would sneak across his face.

"Little known personal fact: Don was a music trivia genius," Brawka said.

Art of the steal

When you're surrounded all day by priceless works of art, perhaps a couple of million dollars doesn't seem like such a big deal.

But a North suburban man who worked as a payroll manager for the Art Institute of Chicago found out that even amid roomfuls of world-famous paintings and sculptures, when that kind of cash vanishes, someone usually notices.

Michael Maurello, 56, of Beach Park pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges alleging he siphoned more than $2.3 million from the art museum's payroll account to his personal bank accounts from 2007 to 2020.

Here's how the scheme worked, according to a written plea agreement: Maurello would access the profile of an employee or former employee in the art institute's payroll system and change the employee's direct deposit account number to one for his personal bank accounts.

After the museum's bank made a direct deposit to his account, he would then change the direct deposit information back to the other employee's account number and reverse the transaction in the payroll management system so that it would not appear as income on the other employee's tax forms, the plea agreement states.

Maurello faces 20 years in prison when sentenced Sept. 14, prosecutors said Wednesday. He also could be ordered to pay $2,308,772 in restitution to the Art Institute.

Also in federal court

A suburban nurse faces up to 10 years in prison after admitting to allegations she diluted morphine intended for patients to obtain some of the powerful painkiller for her personal use.

Sarah Diamond, 30, of Woodstock pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to one count of tampering with a consumer product, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago.

Prosecutors say that in July and August 2021, while working as the assistant director of nursing at a medical rehabilitation center, Diamond diluted liquid morphine prescribed to at least five patients to manage their pain. In one instance, a patient received only 26% of the amount intended, authorities alleged.

"Diamond removed the morphine with reckless disregard and extreme indifference for the risk that the patients would be placed in danger of bodily injury," prosecutors said.

A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

Federal authorities did not release the name or exact location of the facility where Diamond worked, but they said Crystal Lake police provided "valuable assistance" on the case.

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A North suburban man who worked as a payroll manager for the Art Institute of Chicago pleaded guilty in federal court this week to allegations he embezzled more than $2.3 million from the museum. Daily Herald file photo
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