A special prosecutor has been appointed in St. Clair County to handle the investigation of a judge who, according to a court document, could be charged with battery and solicitation of a sexual act.
The identity of the judge was not disclosed in the document.
The office of St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly filed a motion Thursday asking for appointment of a special prosecutor for the case. The motion states that the “suspect” is a sitting circuit judge of the 20th Judicial Circuit, which covers St. Clair County. The motion was granted, and a special prosecutor was appointed.
The potential charges were listed as “battery/makes physical contact and solicitation of a sexual act.”
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Kelly said Friday that legal and ethical restrictions prevented him from naming the circuit judge. In the 20th Circuit, which also covers Monroe, Perry, Randolph and Washington counties, there are 11 circuit judges including Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson, who signed the order appointing a special prosecutor from the Office of the State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor. A judge who was a suspect in a criminal case would not be allowed to sign an order for a special prosecutor.
The prosecutor’s motion also seeks an arrest warrant for the circuit judge from the Belleville Police Department, but efforts to obtain a copy that might confirm the judge’s identity were not successful.
Gleeson declined to give the identity of the judge, citing legal and ethical restrictions.
Circuit judges are elected by voters. Associate judges are appointed by the circuit judges.
It’s the second time in recent months that a special prosecutor has been appointed in St. Clair County to handle a case involving an allegation against a judge.
Belleville police have been involved in an ongoing investigation of Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert, who has issued a statement that he is being persecuted by police and court officials because he is gay. Duebbert could not be immediately be reached for comment Friday.
In July, Duebbert spent about 5 minutes before a St. Clair County grand jury but what, if anything, he told jurors is unknown outside the office of state special prosecutor Dave Neal. Neal said at the time that the special prosecutor’s office had been appointed to investigate a case indirectly involving the shooting death of Carl Z. Silas of Belleville. Duebbert was questioned by police earlier this year about the case but has not been charged with any crime.
David Fields, 21, who lived at Duebbert’s home on Powder Mill Road after Fields was released from prison last October, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Silas. Fields, who was on parole for a felony aggravated assault charge, was required to register his address with probation department officials. Fields remained in custody Friday at the St. Clair County Jail on the murder charge.
After Fields was charged with murder, the Major Case Squad sought obstruction of justice charges against Duebbert, and that request was also turned over to the special prosecutor’s office. No obstruction charges have been filed.
Duebbert has told police that the last time he had communicated with Fields, was about 8 p.m. on Dec. 29 — the night before the shooting. Public records show that during that call, Fields used his girlfriend’s cell phone and talked about meeting with Duebbert, according to a copy of a search warrant.
A search of Duebbert’s cell phone records by an investigator for the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department revealed nine texts sent to Fields’ cell phone between 8:10 p.m. and 10:47 p.m. and two text messages that were returned from Fields’ phone, according to the search warrant.
The BND has not been able to reach Duebbert for comment beyond an initial statement shortly after the Silas killing, where he stated he had been questioned by Belleville police.
In the Nov. 8 election, Duebbert, a Republican, defeated former Chief Judge John Baricevic. Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson, the current chief judge, has removed Duebbert from hearing cases.