How an unlicensed lawyer got a job in the Madison County public defender’s office
Eight Illinois inmates were recently brought back to the Madison County Courthouse where they were sentenced for low-level felonies with a decision to make:
They could try to renegotiate their prison sentences or keep the plea deals that had been negotiated by Kelcie Miller, a former public defender who was working without a law license when they were her clients.
All but one decided to keep the deals they had.
Miller, 26, of Edwardsville, was fired in May after about seven months as an assistant public defender in Madison County. She is facing criminal charges of impersonating of an attorney and forging an Illinois Attorney Registration Card, as well as a theft charge for the taxpayer-funded salary she received. She has also been charged with writing bad checks in another county.
Madison County Public Defender John Rekowski said in an interview one of the inmates who had been Miller’s client negotiated his eight-year sentence for burglary down to seven years, which will actually be a net reduction of six months in time served. The other seven inmates decided to keep their deals, according to Rekowski.
If they had decided to start over, there is a chance they could have gotten a longer sentence.
Miller had worked on about 80 cases, Rekowski said previously. Because she was new, Rekowski has said she didn’t work on any violent crimes or trials.
The open cases were reassigned, and the public defender’s office sent two letters to each of the clients with closed cases, letting them know that they can also renegotiate their plea deals. As of Monday, Rekowski said his office heard back from about 15-20 people on probation who said they were OK with their sentences.
Rekowski said he would likely make one more attempt to contact the ones who haven’t responded by mail.
He is also in the process of interviewing candidates for the open assistant public defender position.
Miller was hired after failing the bar exam twice because Rekowski hadn’t asked to see proof from lawyers that they had passed before. Now, he said it is part of the hiring process, and he has verified that his other assistants passed the bar.