UPDATED 03/21/11 9:39 a.m.
WOODSTOCK, Ill. (CBS/WBBM) – The trial involving the current McHenry County State’s Attorney begins Monday, and the attorney for Louis Bianchi promises a war.
As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports, Bianchi and his personal secretary, Joyce Synek, are charged with using county resources for political purposes.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Mary Frances Bragiel reports
He was accused last year of directing employees to write campaign correspondence on taxpayer time and solicit fundraising donations.
Prosecutors are expected to call Bianchi’s former secretary who claims he ordered her to do political work, and the chief of the civil division who has agreed to testify against his boss.
Indicted last year by a grand jury, the 67-year-old Bianchi, a twice-elected Republican, is the first Illinois state’s attorney in decades to stand trial on criminal charges while still in office, according to legal observers.
Defense attorney Terry Ekl said he expects Bianchi to be acquitted, bluntly dismissing the allegations against him as “smoke and mirrors, innuendo and half-truths.”
“There’s no evidence that Lou Bianchi ever instructed anybody to do political work on county time,” said Ekl, a veteran defense attorney known for his work in the DuPage 7 trial more than a decade ago.
Bianchi, first elected in 2004 after running as a political outsider, faces a maximum five-year prison term if convicted. But he would be eligible for probation.
Legal observers, though, called this trial highly unusual — not only because it involves a sitting state’s attorney but also due to the nature of the charges.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this in the many years I’ve been around,” said DePaul University law professor Leonard Cavise, a Chicago lawyer for more than 35 years.
State’s attorneys seldom run afoul of the law, or even face serious ethics questions while in office, said James Grogan, chief counsel for the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which oversees lawyers’ conduct. “It is unusual to see a prosecutor charged during his tenure with a crime,” Grogan said.
These are not the only charges Bianchi faces.
Last month, Bianchi and his chief investigator, Ronald Salgado, and another investigator, Michael McCleary, were hit with new charges including dropping charges or decreasing penalties in several criminal cases that were politically connected to his office.
the Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire