Metro-East News

Judge Duebbert hasn’t heard a case since 2017. He just got a nearly $5,000 raise.

A St. Clair County judge who hasn’t heard a case in more than a year has received a nearly $5,000 annual pay increase

Judge Ronald Duebbert was elected in November 2016 but removed from hearing cases in January 2017. Since then, he’s been on desk duty, and now draws an annual salary of $202,433, according to the Illinois Comptroller’s Office. At that rate, he earns $775 a day.

All circuit judges received a 2.2% raise on July 1, at the start of the current state fiscal year.

“He continues to be on administrative duties,” 20th Circuit Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson said Friday.

Duebbert could not be reached Friday for comment.

Gleeson placed Duebbert on administrative duties after Major Case Squad officers investigating a murder asked for obstruction of justice charges against Duebbert, saying he lied to them during the investigation. Duebbert’s former roommate, David Fields, was charged with the shooting death of Carl Z. Silas of Belleville.

A special prosecutor declined to issue charges, but the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board began investigating a complaint. The Judicial Inquiry Board investigates complaints involving Illinois state court judges and judicial candidates. That complaint could be the first step in removing Duebbert from the bench.

The board issued the original complaint in April, but has not yet set a date for the hearing.

The complaint stated that when Duebbert met with detectives investigating a murder in Belleville, he had Fields’ cellphone, but he didn’t tell them that Fields, the prime suspect and a former roommate of Duebbert’s, had it the night before when a man was gunned down in his east Belleville apartment.

The phone was an iPhone 6 that Duebbert gave to Fields in 2015 before Fields went to prison for beating a pregnant teen at Belleville East High School, the complaint stated. Duebbert returned the phone in 2016 when Fields was released from prison.

But it was the whereabouts of the phone in the hours before and after Silas’ murder on Dec. 30, 2016, that was the basis for the judicial board’s complaint.

Duebbert met Fields in a gas station parking lot in Belleville the night before the murder, according to the complaint. Duebbert gave Fields a bag of belongings that had been stored at Duebbert’s house. The iPhone was returned to Fields at that meeting. Duebbert failed to tell police about the meeting, the complaint stated. Duebbert and Fields texted each other throughout the night, police said.

Investigators met with Duebbert about 10 hours after the murder. He told them, according to the complaint, that he took the phone back from Fields in late November or early December because “it wasn’t smart to let him have that phone.” Duebbert told police that he hadn’t talk to Fields, but the complaint stated that he had talked to Fields on the phone shortly before Duebbert met with the police.

Fields did stand trial on the murder charges in July, but the case ended in a mistrial.

Duebbert appeared before the JIB on May 12 and June 9. The board added counts to the complaint after that testimony, stating he lied when he appeared before them.

Deubbert was charged with felony sexual abuse and intimidation after a former client alleged that he grabbed the man’s genitals and offered to reduce his legal fee by $100 if the man performed oral sex on Duebbert. Those charges were dismissed on the eve of trial when the victim declined to cooperate.

With the unexpected death of Circuit Judge Robert LeChien, and Duebbert being barred from hearing cases, the workload in the courthouse was mounting. The Illinois Supreme Court recently appointed Bill Steihl to help with the backlog of cases. The appointment took effect Aug. 20 and will conclude Dec. 3, when the vacancy will be filled by the winner of a race on the November ballot. Stiehl is not on the ballot.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570.