The Belleville News-Democrat and a reporter have filed suit against the Illinois Department of Corrections, Illinois Prisoner Review Board and St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office to release documents relating to Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert and a 20-year-old defendant in a murder case.
BND reporter Beth Hundsdorfer filed several requests under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act for records regarding Duebbert’s visits to murder defendant David Fields when Fields was previously held in prison. She also requested documents relating to parole violations filed against Fields; tape recordings of telephone calls between Duebbert and Fields when Fields was held in the St. Clair County Jail in 2015; and exhibits attached to a formal complaint by State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly to the Judicial Inquiry Board.
Fields, who formerly listed his address as Duebbert’s Belleville home, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Carl Z. Silas, of Belleville, in December. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held in the county jail.
Hundsdorfer’s requests for public records were denied.
Duebbert was never the attorney of record for Fields, according to the lawsuit filed by Attorney Donald M. Craven, whose Springfield firm specializes in FOI and First Amendment cases.
The Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief was filed Feb. 3 in St. Clair County Court. The complaint argues that Hundsdorfer and the BND should receive the records because a portion of the Freedom of Information Act allegedly barring their release does not apply to information that “is already a matter of public knowledge.”
Craven cited stories written by Hundsdorfer and published online and in print that revealed, “... that the two (Duebbert and Fields) were videotaped together in Duebbert’s car and the video was posted on a Facebook account, that Duebbert visited Fields while Fields was in the custody of the IDOC, that Duebbert signed in as an attorney to visit Fields, despite the fact that Duebbert had never been counsel of record for Fields, that Duebbert talked to Fields while Fields was confined at the St. Clair County Jail, and that Fields listed Duebbert’s home as his residence at the time he was released from IDOC custody.”
On Wednesday, Craven filed a motion asking a judge to review in chambers the material requested and to make an exact inventory of what records are being withheld by the state agencies.