Metro-East News

Murder suspect with ties to St. Clair County judge will get help with legal expenses

A murder suspect with ties to Republican Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert will have his legal expenses paid for by St. Clair County, a judge ruled Wednesday.
A murder suspect with ties to Republican Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert will have his legal expenses paid for by St. Clair County, a judge ruled Wednesday. dholtmann@bnd.com

A St. Clair County judge found murder suspect David Fields indigent, meaning the county will pick up expenses for experts used in the defense’s case.

Circuit Judge Bob Haida found Fields did not have resources to hire investigators and experts to defend himself. As part of the ruling, Haida required defense attorneys Ryan Neal and Brittany Kimble to inform the court of the individual they intend to employ, their credentials and the amount of the expenses.

“I’m not going to issue a blank check to anyone,” Haida said.

During the hearing Wednesday, Fields told Haida that he had no source of income and had no assets that he could liquidate.

“There were payments coming from family members, but those dried up,” Neal said during the hearing.

Neal told Haida that neither he nor Kimble were making a motion to withdraw from the case.

Special prosecutor Thomas Colburn did not oppose the motion. The St. Clair County Board administers money to pay indigent defendants’ litigation expenses.

Fields, 21, was arrested on Dec. 30, 2016, for the murder of Carl Silas, who was shot to death in front of his girlfriend and two small children in his east Belleville apartment. Police have said that robbery was the motive. Fields, who previously lived with St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ronald Duebbert, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Before the shooting, Fields listed his address at Duebbert’s home on Powder Mill Road in Belleville. Fields was listed on the Illinois State Police’s Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth list after he was convicted of an assault on a 17-year-old girl in 2013 at Belleville East High School.

In exchange for pleading guilty to aggravated assault on a pregnant person, prosecutors dropped a criminal sexual assault charge against Fields. He was sentenced to six years in prison. After his release, he moved in with Duebbert, who was then running for circuit judge against then-Chief Judge John Baricevic, a long time Democrat who has served as St. Clair County state’s atorney, County Board chairman and circuit judge.

Duebbert, a Republican, has said that he was “being Christian” and trying to help Fields turn his life around. Duebbert, who has openly acknowledged he is gay, said he was not in a romantic relationship with Fields.

Duebbert won the election. But Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson removed him from hearing criminal cases because of Duebbert’s association with Fields. After Silas’ murder, police involved in the Silas murder investigation sought an obstruction of justice charge against Duebbert. Gleeson then removed Duebbert from hearing any cases. Duebbert continues to hold the elected position of circuit judge.

In October, a client of Duebbert’s filed an affidavit, in which he swore that Duebbert propositioned him, fondled him, then offered to discount his legal bill by $100 if the man performed oral sex on him while Duebbert was in private practice. The man, now 25, filed the document as part of a motion to vacate his guilty plea to a felony charge of aggravated fleeing from police.

The man alleged that on Oct. 14, 2016, just weeks before Duebbert defeated then-Chief Judge John Baricevic at the polls, the two met in Duebbert’s Belleville office to discuss his felony case, and that’s when the alleged sexual assault occurred.

In November, Duebbert was charged with felony sexual abuse, intimidation and solicitation of a sex act. Those charges are pending.

Fields has been held in the St. Clair County Jail since Dec. 30. Haida asked the lawyers for a trial date.

Neal responded he expected to be ready sometime in May, April or June, after the defense team employs an investigator and any necessary legal experts.

Neal told Haida the defense team needed the time because of the “volume of (police reports)” and the piecemeal way they are being received.

Attorneys will be back in court on Jan. 30 before Haida to discuss trial preparations.

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