WOODSTOCK, Ill. (STMW) – McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi has been acquitted of charges that he had employees do political work on county time.
“The evidence presented here in this case, in this trial, has not demonstrated any crimes have been committed,’’ Judge Joseph McGraw said Wednesday in delivering a directed verdict from the bench even before Bianchi had presented a defense in the case.
Bianchi’s administrative assistant, Joyce Synek, was also acquitted on charges that she lied to a grand jury and destroyed political documents on her office computer.
Bianchi, a Republican serving his second term as the top prosecutor in McHenry County, still faces additional charges stemming from the same investigation but for different conduct.
Earlier Wednesday, a former prosecutor in Bianchi’s office said she aided Bianchi with some political chores, but did that work after hours and outside of her county office.
Nichole Owens testified she voluntarily did limited political work for her boss when he was running for re-election in 2008 — and never saw Bianchi order any staffers to do political work for him on county time.
“Was Lou Bianchi running a campaign out of the state’s attorney’s office when you worked there?” defense attorney Terry Ekl asked.
“No,” replied Owens, who served as chief of the felony division when she left the office last year after working there for more than five years.
Special prosecutor Thomas McQueen argued as the trial began earlier this week at the McHenry County Courthouse that Bianchi “ran the committee to re-elect Lou Bianchi from his office in this building.”
Owens — the final witness called by prosecutors — repeatedly said she only did political work on her own time and was never pressured by Bianchi to take part in his re-election effort.
“I wanted him to be re-elected. I believe he made some great changes in the office,” Owens said.
Following her testimony, defense attorneys immediately asked Judge McGraw to acquit both Bianchi and Synek, arguing prosecutors had failed to prove any of the charges against them.
Ekl detailed a litany of problems with the case, including contending McQueen and co-counsel Henry Tonigan improperly had charged Bianchi under a theft of services statute intended to prosecute people who failed to pay taxi fares or rental car fees.
Prosecutors also couldn’t prove any documents related to Bianchi’s fund-raisers that were found in Synek’s computer were prepared on county time, Ekl said.
“There has not been a single piece of evidence to indicate when any document involved in this case was prepared,” he said, telling McGraw at one point: “It’s time for this case to end.”
Synek’s attorney, Ernest DiBenedetto, also argued prosecutors hadn’t shown his client did any political work during office hours.
McQueen defended charging Bianchi under a theft of services statute, contending he misused county computer equipment intended only for official use.
Numerous politically related documents were taken from Synek’s office computer during the investigation, McQueen said, including some that had been moved to a separate, “hidden” file in an apparent effort to thwart investigators.
McGraw, a Winnebago County judge who is hearing the case without a jury, ruled Wednesday to acquit Bianchi and Synek.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)