Metro-East News

Audio released of judge using racial epithet, part of judicial complaint

A jailhouse phone call that is part of a Judicial Inquiry Board complaint against St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert was released on Friday, in which he used a racial epithet while talking with a potential client.

Duebbert was talking to Jarrett Richardson, who was in the county jail in May 2015, facing a gun charge. On the audio clip, Duebbert, who never became Richardson’s lawyer, is heard discounting the merits of the charge against Richardson.

“Just keep your mouth shut. I think it’s a bullshit charge unless they can find your fingerprints on it or they got video of you throwing it away. At any rate, I will talk to your momma about it,” Duebbert said. “If there’s no gun on you, they are going to have to have some additional information. They are hoping that you will plead guilty. It’s just another little nigga’ bites the dust. Don’t talk.”

Duebbert could not be reached for comment Friday.

The recording of the call was requested by the Belleville News-Democrat under a Freedom of Information Act request. That request was denied, but the BND appealed by filing suit. Two calls were released as part of a negotiated settlement.

Duebbert came under scrutiny in December, just after he defeated former Chief Judge John Baricevic at the polls in November. David E. Fields, a man who was on parole for an attack on a pregnant student at Belleville East High School, listed his address in parole documents as the same address for Duebbert’s residence, on Powder Mill Road near Belleville.

At that time, Duebbert told the BND he was trying to help Fields and was “being Christian” by opening his home to Fields.

Fields was later charged with murder in the shooting death of Carl Z. Silas, 28. Silas was shot about 5 a.m. on Dec. 30 in the bedroom of his apartment at 2813 West Boulevard near Belleville. He was shot twice in the head. His girlfriend witnessed the shooting.

As part of the investigation, Major Case Squad investigators interviewed Duebbert, who later told the BND he knew absolutely nothing about Silas’ murder.

State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly later filed the Judicial Inquiry Board complaint against Duebbert, stating Duebbert violated judicial canons by lying to police, talking to the press about an ongoing investigation and using a racial epithet during a jailhouse phone conversation.

Kelly has requested a special prosecutor to prosecute Fields and investigate whether criminal charges should be filed against Duebbert. No charges have been filed against Duebbert, who remains a judge but has been taken off hearing cases.

Duebbert continues to receive his $188,000 annual salary, but has been taken off cases by St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson.

Gleeson also restricted Duebbert’s access to certain parts of the courthouse.

“I have taken appropriate measures to assure the security of certain sensitive areas of the courthouse,” Gleeson said on Friday.

Richardson is now deceased. He was shot to death on Feb. 9 in a north St. Louis apartment. Police said he entered the apartment in the 1800 block of Cass Avenue through an unlocked door and demanded property. He and one of the three occupants of the apartments exchanged gunfire, leaving Richardson fatally injured.

Jail records showed the Richardson was in the county jail with Fields, who was waiting to be sent to Menard Correctional Center to begin serving a six-year prison sentence for aggravated battery in connection with the attack on the pregnant student. Fields pleaded guilty to the charge in exchange for prosecutors dismissing charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault.

Fields is facing first-degree murder charges in connection with Silas’ murder and remained in the St. Clair County Jail on Friday in lieu of $2 million bail.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer