Our Public Media: Quick to Judge, Slow to Correct: How an Innocent Person had to Fight for His Life (Part 2 of 3)

Our firm recently obtained a Not Guilty verdict at a jury trial involving a sexual assault case against a minor. The media ran with the story as soon as it was announced, and it made sense that they did, because the facts they reported were scandalous ones: a step-father allegedly raping his minor step-child following a multi-county investigation.

The media was quick to announce that our client was charged with two Class 1 felony offenses of Criminal Sexual Assault. These offenses were really serious, because there was no chance of probation, since the law imposed a mandatory prison sentence of 30 to 80 years, which was required to be served at 85%. This would have amounted to a life sentence for our client, and he would have died in prison.

After the media announced our client faced such scandalous charges, they were surprisingly absent when we obtained a complete acquittal after a three-day jury trial. Law enforcement was quick to announce the charges, and the media picked it up right away. However, no one reported on the deficiencies that we brought out in the government's case. No one reported how it was that an innocent man found himself fighting for his life.

From the start, beating the case would seem impossible, which is one reason why so many were shocked when we were able to obtain a Not Guilty verdict after a jury trial and in a rural county, no less. On the surface, the evidence seemed overwhelming: a minor teenage step-daughter said she awoke to our client having sexual intercourse with her. The truth, however, was far from that. It took some work, but we were able to show that the father of the alleged victim was actually Chief of Police of a city that was in a totally different county from where our client was charged.

That Police Chief father was just fine with the alleged victim drinking underage, and the night of the incident, that's exactly what she did. It came out at trial that the alleged victim was not only drunk, but was also a liar, whose testimony differed drastically from what she told to police. Between her inconsistent statements and repeatedly answering, "I don't remember," during her testimony, it was clear she could not be believed. This does not answer how our client was charged, however. That is, until you factor in police corruption.

The Chief of Police in a county different from where the crime allegedly occurred was not only father of the alleged victim, but also took it upon himself to conduct the investigation. He contacted a friend at the Attorney General's Office who conducted a download of the alleged victim's phone, and even tried to surreptitiously arrange a forensic interview of his minor daughter. Forensic interviews are common when minors are alleged to be victims of sex crimes, but it's certainly uncommon that the alleged victim's Police Chief father arrange one after telling no one about the case while conducting his own investigation. Only thanks to the interviewer realizing what was going on and reporting it did any other police agency become involved.

The Illinois State Police then investigated, and conducted their download of the alleged victim's phone. By this time, the alleged victim had been spoken to so frequently that she couldn't keep her own story straight. Reports were forwarded to the prosecution, who filed the charges, and all parties involved were happy to get the media attention afterward.

Less than a year later, we secured a Not Guilty verdict after a three-day jury trial. An innocent man had been accused, and had been acquitted. The system worked thanks to a skilled legal defense team. One would think this would be a case the media would want to cover, yet they failed to run even the smallest of announcements that the seemingly impossible had been accomplished and a Not Guilty verdict had been obtained on a sex case that could have ended our client's life. One has to ask why the media was uninterested, and this is discussed in the third installment of this blog article series.

Copyright © 2018 by Brendan Bukalski

The information provided in this column is general in nature, and should not be relied upon as legal advice or interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship . As a general rule, all specific legal problems should be handled by an individual's attorney. All rights reserved. Any copying, duplication, or commercial use of the information contained in this column is strictly prohibited without prior permission.

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