St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert said the Democrats were out to get him because he is gay and a Republican, but Democrats, including the powerful Democrat he defeated, says Duebbert showed bad judgment by living with a violent felon who’s now accused of murder.
Duebbert, who has been taken off hearing cases pending an investigation by the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, made his comments in an interview with KMOV, Channel 4.
“What would we have to gain by trying to get him removed?” asked John Baricevic, the former chief judge in the 20th Circuit who lost his seat on the bench to Duebbert on Nov. 4.
If Duebbert is removed from the bench, Baricevic said Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier would make the appointment to replace Duebbert, and most likely it would be another Republican.
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Karmeier is a Republican from Nashville. During past court vacancies, Karmeier appointed now-Circuit Judge Steve McGlynn, who voters elected in 2010.
Neither Duebbert nor his attorney, Dedra Brock-Moore, responded to written questions and calls seeking comment.
“And you have to think of the lengths we would have to go to in this case — framing the person who lived with Duebbert for murder, getting the suspect’s relative to identify him — just to have him removed and have me replace him,” Baricevic said. “So, that would mean witnesses, law enforcement, the Judicial Inquiry Board and Karmeier would all have to be in on it.”
Chris Bonjean, a spokesman for the Illinois Supreme Court, pointed to Section 12 of the Illinois Constitution that says if a judge is removed 60 days before a primary, vacancies are filled by the Supreme Court.
State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly and Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson have filed complaints with the Judicial Inquiry Board regarding Duebbert. The complaints filed in January accuse Duebbert of lying to police, talking to the press about a murder investigation, and using a racial epithet during a recorded conversation with a jail inmate.
The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis had asked for obstruction of justice charges against Duebbert in connection with the shooting death of Carl Silas, 28, of Belleville, who was shot twice in the head as he slept between his infant child and fiancé.
The complaint involves Duebbert telling a reporter in the hours after the Dec. 30 killing that he had been interviewed by police, and that David Fields, a 20-year-old man who had lived with Duebbert, was a “person of interest” in the death of Silas.
Court records state that Duebbert told Major Case Squad investigators he did not have any contact with Fields since 8 p.m. Dec. 29 — the night before the killing — but his cell phone records showed he texted Fields nine times and that Fields returned his texts twice after that time. The complaint also alleges that Duebbert used a racial slur during a jailhouse telephone call from a potential client.
“Just keep your mouth shut. I think it’s a (expletive) 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 told a teen who was accused of firing a gun in a public park. “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 (expletive) bites the dust. Don’t talk.”
The man told Duebbert that “Day Day” told him to call. “Day Day” is Fields’ nickname.
And you have to think of the lengths we would have to go to in this case — framing the person who lived with Duebbert for murder, getting the suspect’s relative to identify him — just to have him removed and have me replace him. So, that would mean witnesses, law enforcement, the Judicial Inquiry Board and Karmeier would all have to be in on it.
Former Chief Judge John Baricevic
Fields is facing first-degree murder charges in connection with Silas’ death. No charges have been filed against Duebbert.
Kathy Twine, the executive director and general counsel for the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, would not speak directly to any investigation into Duebbert’s complaints.
Generally, when the JIB receives a complaint, Twine said, it decides whether the complaint warrants more investigation and, if so, calls the judge for details. The board can then compel the judge to formally appear and answer questions in an investigation.
Duebbert was taken off cases by Chief Judge Gleeson after Silas’ murder. He continues to draw his $194,000 annual salary.
“I felt I didn’t have a choice but to do that given the circumstances,” Gleeson said.
Gleeson and Baricevic denied Duebbert’s sexual orientation and political affiliation had anything to do with his present status on the St. Clair County bench, but his poor judgment in associating with Fields and allowing a felon who was on parole to register on the Murderer and Violent Offenders Against Youth Registry as living at Duebbert’s home.
Fields was 17 and facing charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery of a pregnant person when the two met on the parking lot of Duebbert’s law office in 2013. Fields was accused of beating and raping a 17-year-old girl at Belleville East High School. Fields and Duebbert struck up a conversation about Duebbert’s car, according to Duebbert.
A friendship began, according to Duebbert, who said he was “being Christian” and trying to help Fields get his life together. After Fields was released from prison last year, Duebbert said he offered Fields a place to live. Duebbert, who has openly said he is gay, denied a romantic relationship between himself and Fields.
Videos posted on Facebook depict Fields and Duebbert together. In one video, from May 19, 2015, Fields is seen riding in Duebbert’s Porsche and making gang references while Duebbert is seen driving. In the other video, Fields is in the passenger seat of the Porsche with Duebbert driving. Fields said they are headed toward East St. Louis. He references his Versace pants. At one point, Duebbert revs the engine of the Porsche. Fields calls Duebbert “Dollar Bill.”
Illinois Judicial Canons state: “A judge’s conduct should be free from impropriety and the appearance of impropriety; he should avoid infractions of law, and his personal behavior not only upon the bench and in the performance of judicial duties, but also in his everyday life, should be beyond reproach.”
That canon is based on the premise that the personal and professional behavior of a judge are relevant to his qualification, a federal case determined. Any violation of these canons subject to a judicial officer to discipline or to removal following proper due process requirements.
In another case, the board found that a Chicago judge’s refusal to answer questions constituted a breach of the Judicial Code of Conduct.
Kelly, the state’s attorney, requested a special prosecutor. The Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s Office was appointed to handle both the prosecution of Fields and to investigate any possible wrongdoing by Duebbert.