Quick Hits – July 19, 2017

Rak opening statements

The good news is, I managed to be in court yesterday for the Daniel Rak murder trial opening statements without having to endure a Daily Herald reporter’s verbal and almost physical assault. It’s the small things in life, right?

And BTW, in an effort not to go all Melville on you, I’m going to assume you’ve been keeping up with my coverage of this case. If not, simply enter “Rak” into the blog search box and have at it.


Daniel Rak

Since the prosecution leads off, KCSAO prosecutor Alex Bederka had the first shot at the jury. On the plus side, he was brief which, when you consider the average American attention span, was a very good thing.

His opening statement was competent, but Bederka couldn’t make eye contact with the jury, he certainly didn’t connect with them and he blasted them with the gory details right out of the gate.

This, of course, begs the question, do you remember who serves on juries? People who aren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.

So when you hit 13 regular folks, who are nervous about their statutory predicament and faced with holding a young man’s life in their hands, with a full broadside, it’s not a great start. I’m not saying the prosecution can’t recover, but…

When you consider that Public Defender Kelli Childress actually had me – the curmudgeonly 11-year journalist Jeff Ward – teary eyed at one point, that lack of a prosecutorial personal touch does not bode well for Bederka.

In her opening statement, Childress somehow turned the massively dysfunctional Rak family dynamic into a fairy tale. It’s a risk, because, just like it is in politics, provoking a visceral reaction is a lot like a North Korean missile test – you never know where it’s gonna go.

But just when I thought Childress won the case before it started, she went on twice as long as she should have and she presented too much technical medical evidence too soon. It wasn’t a make or break proposition and the defense is still ahead, but it did keep the prosecution in the game.

And Judge Tegeler behaved too!

The bottom line is, Childress can be a formidable courtroom presence, while Bederka seems to struggle with the basics in a case that isn’t a slam dunk.

I will endeavor to get back to courtroom 311 as much as I can, but I’m finding it a bit difficult to keep up with my business coach, Brian Basilico and he comes first.


Those charges never shoulda been filed!

The singular sentiment that struck me as I listened to those opening arguments was the eminently clear fact that Daniel Rak should NEVER have been charged with murder. A domestic violence misdemeanor? Maybe!

I realize that opening and closing statements are persuasion and not evidence, but if a mere half of the life-threatening ailments Childress attributed to Jeffrey Rak (the father) are true, the best MD on the planet with the best equipment on the planet couldn’t possibly pinpoint the specific cause of death.


Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon

Then, when you consider the fact the elder Rak didn’t die until 52 hours after the confrontation with his son, I cannot believe any State’s Attorney with any semblance of a conscience would’ve OK’d murder charges.

And first degree murder charges to boot!

C’mon! If you go by the prosecutor’s own opening statement, there clearly was no intent nor premeditation on the part of Daniel Rak. At best, this is an involuntary manslaughter case and even that would be a stretch.

So, what we have here is another case of Kane County State’s Attorney Office malfeasance in which Joe Cullen’s and Joe McMahon’s “Screw it! We’ll Let the judge and jury sort ‘em out” mentality and utter refusal to do the right thing means a man unnecessarily sits in jail while facing the fight of his life.

Meanwhile, Cullen and McMahon are too busy prosecuting the LaQuan McDonald case in Cook County – on the Kane County taxpayers’ dime – to pay much attention.

That all seems fair, doesn’t it?


Daily Herald diversity? Nope!

Since I seem to have to set ground rules for how Daily Herald reporters should behave in public, I recently emailed Paddock Publication management to let them know exactly where we stood on the whole Harry Hitzeman thing. That list went like this:

  • Daniel E. Baumann – Chairman Emeritus
  • Douglas K. Ray – Chairman/Publisher
  • Robert Y. Paddock, Jr – Vice Chairman/Executive Vice President
  • Scott T. Stone – President/COO
  • Kent L. Johnson – Senior Vice President
  • Colin M. O’Donnell – Senior Vice President
  • John Lampinen – Senior Vice President
  • Stefanie S. Anderson – Senior Vice President
  • James J. Galetano – Senior Vice President
  • Stuart R. Paddock III – Senior Vice President

First, I’m starting to think this organization has more senior vice presidents than reporters, and second, what did you notice about that list? That’s right! Nine old white guys and one white woman. There isn’t an African-American, an Hispanic, a Muslim, an Indian or as much as an Asian on that list!


Before you hit me with any insipid, “How to you know they’re all Caucasian” comment, I Googled all their pictures. And from the looks of it, none of ‘em are gay, either, because gay men dress better and they’re in much better shape.

So the next time the DH calls out the City of Elgin for a lack of diversity, there’s just one word that applies – “hypocrite.”

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