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Prosecutors seek dismissal of sex charges against Duebbert; witness may have 'embellished'

Judge Duebbert surrenders to police in November 2017

In this BND file video from Nov. 8, 2017, Judge Ronald Duebbert was officially booked on charges that include criminal sexual abuse and intimidation.
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In this BND file video from Nov. 8, 2017, Judge Ronald Duebbert was officially booked on charges that include criminal sexual abuse and intimidation.

Lawyers were set to start picking a jury on Monday in the felony sex abuse and intimidation case against St. Clair County Judge Ronald Duebbert, but prosecutors on Thursday filed a motion to dismiss the charges.

The motion filed just after noon on Thursday asked that case be dismissed "pursuant to the victim's request."

Lorinda Lampkin, of the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor's Office, filed the motion, but she could not immediately be reached for comment,.

"Frankly, I am not surprised," said Scott Rosenblum, Duebbert's attorney. "We were ready to go to trial and cross-examine the parties and expose this case for what it was — a politically motivated prosecution. The case lacked credibility."

The prosecutor's motion stated: "The request was made in the presence of (the victim's) attorney, and he was informed of the statute of limitations."

Duebbert could not immediately be reached for comment. Another member of his legal team, Daniel Fultz, declined to comment.

Duebbert was facing two felonies and two misdemeanors after a 25-year-old man accused Duebbert, who was then his lawyer, of fondling his genitals and offering to reduce his legal fees by $100 if the man performed oral sex on Duebbert. The man said it happened in Duebbert's law office in the days before Duebbert defeated then-Chief Judge John Baricevic in an election.

"He reached into my shorts, felt the side of my body and grabbed my penis through my underwear," the man wrote in a sworn affidavit. "I freaked out. I froze up for a second. I felt disgusted. I told him, 'I'm not gay. Don't touch me that way.'"

The intimidation charge alleged that Duebbert told the man "he better never tell anyone."

Alex Enyart, the man's attorney, declined to comment.

But last week during a pretrial hearing, Lampkin stated she received a text message from Enyart. The text stated the man "may have embellished" sexual encounters between himself and Duebbert.

As of early Thursday afternoon, Marion County Associate Judge Michael McHaney had not yet signed an order dismissing the case. The defense will ask the case be dismissed in open court for transparency reasons, Rosenblum said.

Duebbert, a Republican, has maintained his innocence.

Duebbert was charged with battery in 1999 after another man alleged that Duebbert fondled him after he asked about legal advice. The outcome of that case was not clear because the case was expunged in November 2011. The complainant in that case went on to make a YouTube video regarding the allegation, in response to Duebbert's judicial campaign.

Despite a subpoena filed by defense attorney Michael Mettes seeking a police report taken by the Belleville Police Department, the report of the 1999 case wasn't turned over until Tuesday. Brian Flinn, attorney for the city, didn't know the circumstances of the report's discovery.

Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson placed Duebbert on administrative duties after murder charges were filed against Duebbert's former roommate, David Fields. Fields' trial is scheduled to begin July 22. Police sought charges against Duebbert, alleging that he tried to obstruct their investigation in the murder case, but no charges were filed.

Duebbert is listed as a prosecution witness in Fields' trial.

Fields, who remained in St. Clair County Jail as of Thursday, faces first-degree murder and home invasion charges related to the death of Carl Z. Silas, who was shot to death as he lay next to his girlfriend and baby.

Fields was convicted in 2013 of aggravated battery of a pregnant person. He was accused of sexually assaulting and beating a 17-year-old girl at Belleville East High School. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

After his release on parole in October 2016, during Duebbert's judicial campaign, Fields was required to register on the state's Violent Offender Registry. He listed his address at Duebbert's home on Powder Mill Road near Belleville.

Duebbert has said he met Fields in 2013 on the parking lot of Duebbert's law office, when Fields was 17 and facing those felony charges. Fields had stopped to look at Duebbert's car, and the two struck up a conversation. Duebbert has said that he maintained the friendship and was "being Christian" by offering Fields a place to stay and the chance to get his life together. Duebbert, who is gay, has denied a sexual relationship with Fields. Fields left Duebbert's home days before Duebbert took the bench.

Duebbert also faces an investigation by the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, which reviews charges of misconduct by judges and judicial candidates.