Marion County Associate Judge Michael McHaney on Friday formally dismissed criminal sexual abuse and intimidation charges against St. Clair County Judge Ronald Duebbert.
During a brief hearing, the prosecutor, Lorinda Lampkin of the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, said the accuser was intimidated by the court process, which would have included testifying against Duebbert in open court, where cameras would have recorded the trial.
“In sexual assault cases, when dealing with a victim, it is extremely difficult to face their ... abuser,” Lampkin said.
Duebbert's defense attorney, Scott Rosenblum, said the charges were politically motivated.
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“I felt 100 percent confident the jury would have acquitted Judge Duebbert,” Rosenblum said. “The truth would be is these allegations never occurred.”
Duebbert was facing two felonies and two misdemeanors after a 26-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, an attorney representing the accuser, has 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.
During Friday's hearing, Rosenblum asked asked Lampkin to publicly state why the charges were dismissed. “These charges were extremely damaging and they would be for anyone, but especially for a sitting judge,” Rosenblum.
Rosenblum told Presiding Judge McHaney that the victim was a pawn of people with political motives to prosecute Duebbert.
Lampkin stated she wasn’t obligated to say why they were asking for the charges to be dismissed, but told the judge the reason was the 26-year-old man who accused Duebbert balked in the face of a trial.
The man would have to face the man the person he accused and be crossed examined, having his life “picked apart on a news feed,” Lampkin said.
Lampkin pointed out Duebbert hired three attorneys and two private detectives.
“He was intimidated by the whole process. Who in his shoes wouldn’t be? At this time, it was all too much for him,” Lampkin said.
The dismissal of the case against Duebbert may be reinstated if the accuser changes his mind and it is within the statute of limitations.
“They aren’t reinstating that case,” Rosenblum said after the hearing. “It’s garbage.”
Rosenblum said he was ready to go to trial and he was “100 percent confident” that Duebbert would have been acquitted by a jury.
After the hearing, Rosenblum told reporters that it was time for Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson to allow Duebbert to return to the bench. Duebbert has been on administrative duties since Dec. 30, 2016 — about three weeks after he took the bench.
“The chief judge ought to follow the will of the people,” Rosenblum said.
Duebbert has not asked for reinstatement or for a supervisory order from the Illinois Supreme Court that would allow him to hear cases, Gleeson said.
But Gleeson, , after the hearing, said the reason he placed Duebbert on leave had nothing to do with the sex abuse or intimidation charges.
“There is a Judicial Inquiry Board complaint that accuses Judge Duebbert of lying during a murder investigation, then lying during his testimony,” Gleeson said.
Police sought charges against Duebbert, alleging that he tried to obstruct their murder investigation of Carl Z. Silas, but no charges were filed. David E. Fields, Duebbert's former roommate, was charged with the murder and will to trial on July 22. Duebbert is on the prosecution's witness list.
Gleeson said Duebbert’s status would not change because of the result of Friday’s hearing.
“That complaint ... is active and pending,” Gleeson said. “Those allegations bring into question serious questions about Judge Duebbert’s fitness and integrity in terms of whether he should sit on the bench. Until those issues are resolved to the court’s satisfaction, Judge Duebbert will remain on administrative duties.”
McHaney signed a formal, written order dismissing the case.
"After that closing argument and press conference, the case is dismissed," McHaney said. "The case is over."