Quick Hits Supplemental – I won!

For those of you following my eight-month battle with the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office in an effort to get them to turn over 255 pages of sexual harassment complaints against a former prosecutor, I have good news!

I won!

The Attorney General’s Office upheld my appeal of the FOIA (Freedom of Information) request denial and ordered the KCSAO to turn over all of the documents. As you can see by their eight-page ruling

FOIA Appeal 

they agreed with me every step of the way. And let me tell you, the fact that I beat Civil Division head and former Prosecutor of the Year, Joe Lulves, in a straight up legal argument is the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on in quite some time.

For those of you who are interested in my original argument, here you go:

FOIA Appeal PAC 55350 b

Please also note that, in their ruling, the Attorney General’s office cites “salacious content” more than once. That’s exactly why they don’t want those harassment complaints to see the light of day.

But while that battle is won, the war is not nearly over. Lulves made it clear in his response to my appeal that, “absent a court order,” he won’t turn over the documents. So, it’s very likely attorney Jeff Meyer, who provided me with the precedent cited in the appeal, and I will be headed to a civil courtroom.

We’ll win that lawsuit, and the KCSAO will appeal, and we’ll win that one too. Then we’ll all see the rampant sexual harassment State’s Attorney Joe McMahon has been trying to hide for years. And you count on me keeping you apprised every step of the way.

The bottom line is, journalism still matters and sometimes the good guys win!

FOIA victory

 

Quick Hits – I wish I could help all of you, but…

Back in 2006 when I wrote that our justice system desperately needs a social service arm, I had no idea that role would be thrust upon me – at least in Kane County. My long-time readers will recall that column came in response to Chicago federal Judge Joan Lefko’s husband and father being murdered in their home by a disgruntled plaintiff.

The truth is, there are so many desperate plaintiffs and defendants out there who so firmly believe they’ve been screwed by the system that I don’t understand why it hasn’t been done. I know that kind of thing costs money, but a social service unit would correctly cut down on frivolous lawsuits, formal complaints, and a lot of wasted judicial and prosecutor time.

Sometimes, all it takes is one willing to ear to bring someone back from the edge of the abyss.

Kane County Judicial Center

Kane County Judicial Center

How do I know this? Because you all keep coming to me! The numbers add up to well over one hundred people since 2017 and a record setting ten in the last two weeks. I don’t mind lending an ear and offering reasonable advice, especially to those willing to listen, but with a rapidly increasing number of complaints, I simply can’t keep up with it anymore.

So, my intent here is to explain some very basic justice system realities and set some ground rules to make my “family law” practice a bit more manageable. So, let’s get started:

1. The justice system is not out to get you

First, you’re not nearly that important. And second, there’s vast difference between dysfunction and corruption. Of the dozens of stories I’ve heard, not a single one of them involved outright corruption.

To further put this in perspective, when my pickup truck was firebombed on my driveway in 2016, my former running friend, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, stuck me with a prosecutor with whom I almost came to blows. And that prosecutor was later fired for sexually harassing an inordinate number of female prosecutors.

Then the adult offender got just 15 days in jail for doing his best to kill my family. If that dysfunction can descend upon a semi-well-known journalist, what makes you think you’re immune?

2. They’re not good enough to pull off a conspiracy

With rare exception, no one in that Peck Road and Rt. 38 building is smart enough to concoct a conspiracy – especially the judges. And they wouldn’t be able to keep their mouths shut if they did. There is very little that goes on at the Judicial Center that I don’t hear about.

Not only that, but it’s not in your attorney’s best interest to conspire against you because they could be disbarred, they have far better things to do, and they really like getting paid. So, if you’re going to come at me with another conspiracy theory, I’m going to abruptly end the conversation.

3. The people in that building generally loathe each other

I’ve said it over and over again. The Kane County Judicial Center is one of the most incestuous propositions on the planet. Yes! They all know each other, but with some exceptions, judges hate the attorneys, the attorneys hate the judges, and everyone hates the prosecutors. And if they can’t stand each other, how the heck are they possibly going to team up against you? If they did, they’d rat each other out in a heartbeat.

4. Prosecutors are overworked and underpaid

It’s human nature to believe your case is the all-important one, but whether you’re a crime victim or a defendant, you’re just one of hundreds of files that cross a prosecutor’s desk every year. Do prosecutors screw up. Yes they do! But the more likely answer is they can’t devote an inordinate amount of time to one case and if you don’t understand that going in, your life will turn into a complete nightmare.

5. If three or more attorneys have “fired” you, it’s you!

Attorneys are in it to get clients and make money. It’s that simple. So, if they drop you, or if no attorney will take your case, it’s what we call a “fence post over the head hint.” If that’s the case with your case, please don’t come to me with a self-inflicted problem.

6. I will not write about a divorce

No self-respecting journalist would ever write about or take sides in a family law case. First, it’s not news, and second, the fact that you loathe your ex is not a universal truth. The only time I’ll write about a judge, a prosecutor, or an attorney is when there’s repeated hard evidence that demands it.

7. I choose my friends wisely

If you approach me with a problem, odds are I’ll have some sort of relationship with one or more of the people involved. Since I choose my friends wisely, I will listen to your complaint, but I’m far more likely to believe my own experience than someone I just met. That doesn’t mean I’ll cut you off and that my friends can’t screw up, but it also doesn’t mean that I’m part of the “conspiracy.” I don’t have the time or inclination for that, either.

8. There are formal avenues to file a complaint

If you believe a judge has violated their code of conduct, file a complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Board. If you think a prosecutor or attorney has behaved inappropriately, file a complaint with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. I can tell you from experience the ARDC takes evidence-based complaints VERY seriously.

But if all you want to do is go on a rant about a judge, a prosecutor, or an attorney, please don’t waste their or my time.

9. I may not be able to solve your problem, but I can point you in the right direction.

Many folks’ frustration with the justice system is they don’t understand it and they don’t begin to understand the players. I may not have the capacity to solve your problem, but I can point you in the right direction, even if it’s simply referring a decent attorney.

The perfect example of what I speak is last week’s three-part series on sexual harassment in sixth grade. That family didn’t understand the system had actually worked in their favor because the “system” doesn’t communicate very well.

That’s another reason to create a justice system social service adjunct.

The mother said my efforts finally brought closure to their daughter’s plight and I was happy to help.

I love talking to people who, right off the bat say, “Jeff, I know I’m in it waist deep, so how do I get out of it? Put more simply, I can only help those willing to look forward. Righting a perceived injustice? That’s a lot more difficult and it’s rarely a news story.

I’m not saying I’ll no longer respond to your Judicial Center entreaties, it’s just that it was time to set some ground rules to preserve my very limited sanity.

 

But before we move on, I want to address the judges, prosecutors, and the attorneys that populate that building directly. The number of desperate people coming to me with real and perceived problems is increasing every month. And the level of desperation is also on the rise.

Trust me, if I thought any of these individuals would cross the line, journalist-source privilege be damned, I wouldn’t hesitate to call the Sheriff. A great part of the reason I listen to each and every one of these sad tales is an effort to prevent violence.

But in this era of mass shootings, I would ask the Judicial Center players to more carefully consider their words and actions because those words and actions can have unintended consequences. Judges can be arrogant and aloof, prosecutors can forget the defendant is a human being, and there are limits to a “zealous” defense.

I know these are tough jobs. But before you say or do something that’s utterly unnecessary, please first consider if it will improve the situation, or make it much worse. And if it will make it worse, then please let it go.

I could really use a break!

Quick Hits – How to remove Judge John Dalton

Y’all just keep coming!

Since writing that fateful June 2017 column regarding Kane County Judge John Dalton’s regularly despicable courtroom antics, at least 80 of you have come forward with your own version of a family court horror story.

But the consistently recurring them is, “How do we remove this poor excuse for a human being from the bench.” You’d think the fact he’s a bigoted, misogynist, sadistic bully would be enough, but that’s never the case when it comes to the men and women in black.

With the way the system’s set up, it’s virtually impossible to vote a full circuit judge out of office. But there are a number of steps Dalton victims, as I accurately refer to them, can take to get the powers that be to take notice of this eminently miserable excuse for a human being.

Dalton

But before we continue down that road, if you are a woman, and particularly an Hispanic or Black woman, you cannot step foot into courtroom 101 without an attorney – especially if your ex has retained one – because to do so would be the equivalent of committing legal suicide. Dalton doesn’t give a flying bleep about the law, he won’t enforce his own orders, he doesn’t care about his reputation, and he certainly enjoys making women suffer.

The problem is, most attorneys are intimidated by Dalton while others refuse to practice in his courtroom. So, if you need a reasonable family attorney recommendation, please reach out to me at jeffnward@comcast.net and I’ll do my best to hook you up with one.

As is always the case, I receive absolutely no consideration for referring folks to a good attorney.

Now back to the issue at hand.

Step 1 – File a Judicial Inquiry Board complaint

This is the most critical step because these are the only people that have the power to sanction and remove judges. It may be true they don’t remove judges very often, but if just half of the people who’ve approached me filed a JIB complaint, Dalton would be nothing more than a bad aftertaste.

The process and form for filing a Judicial Inquiry Board complaint can be found right here.

When you do file one, keep it short, be very specific as to the misconduct, be as unemotional as possible, and please don’t turn it into a rant about your ex or the system. Those are completely separate issues.

I know some of you are fearful of further incurring the Judge’s wrath, but rest assured, all JIB complaints are completely confidential, so you have nothing to fear. And even if Dalton managed to figure out who filed onet, can he really make your life any worse than he already has?

 

Step 2 – Email Chief Judge Susan Clancy-Boles  

You can contact her at bolessusan@co.kane.il.us. She may not have the power to remove Dalton from the bench, but she’s under no obligation to assign him to a courtroom, either. He could very easily be relegated to simple administrative tasks that not even he could screw up.

Again, be specific, don’t let your commentary devolve into a rant, and please don’t make any threats. Simply explain your situation and ask her way this bleep is allowed to single-handedly destroy people’s lives.

 

Step 3 – Call State Senator Cristina Castro’s Springfield office

Castro is one of Dalton’s biggest supporters to the point where his husband, Rich Jacobs, runs her Elgin office. And don’t give me any more crap about outing Dalton as gay because he broadcasts it to anyone who will listen, and he regularly bludgeons plaintiffs, defendants and attorneys with it, too.

Politicians are timid creatures by nature and Castro has much higher political aspirations. So, if her Elgin constituents start calling her – and it hast to be a call to Springfield or Jacobs will intercept emails or calls to Elgin – to explain why she no longer has your vote, it will make her very, very nervous.

I’m in the process of recruiting a Democrat to run against Castro in 2020 to make a point. Given her campaign ethic, she will be very difficult to beat, but collectively, we can make her spend a whole lot of money to stay in office.

There’s more than one way to send a message. If we strip Dalton of his support, it makes him that much more vulnerable.

 

Step 4 – Stage a protest on the Kane County Judicial Center steps

This is a fascinating proposition that even I hadn’t even considered, but when a reader suggested the possibility, I was rather intrigued. So, I reached out to one of my bevy of attorneys who not only said it was perfectly legal to demonstrate on those Peck Road and Route 38 steps, but he thought it was an excellent idea.

This is exactly the kind of thing that would make the local newspapers wake up and take notice.

Again! PLEASE DON’T DISRUPT the Judicial Center proceedings or be obnoxious in any way.  Peaceful protests with simple and direct signs are always the most effective.

To this end, Alton Jones, a long-time Dalton victim who’s had more than enough is willing to coordinate these protests. Those interested in making a statement can contact him at altonjonesjr76@gmail.com.

I will be more than happy to reach out the local press to be sure they cover it, as well.

 

The bottom line is, while I can’t single-handedly solve this problem, collectively, we have the power to create change. And the faster we start moving on this, the faster Dalton’s rein of judicial terror will end.

 

Quick Hits – June 10, 2019

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a multi-topic column so let’s get right to it!

McMahon may not run

Just as Mr. Spock referred to military secrets as “the most fleeting of all” when fleecing the Romulans of their cloaking device in ‘The Enterprise Incident,’ the same can be said of political revelations. It always pays to take them with a grain of salt.

So, when a series of sources told me that former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner wasn’t running, it’s not that they were wrong, it’s that, after someone as morally questionable as former State Senator Karen McConnaughay finally turned down his request to pinch hit, he had no choice but to face the electoral music himself.

With that caveat in mind, I’ve been hearing that, primarily as a result of First Assistant Jody Gleason’s moving on to a Kendall/DeKalb County judgeship, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon might not run in 2020.

McMahon 4

You see, Gleason was one of his few competent chief staffers, and with her gone, Joe might actually have to start showing up to work. And that kind of radical act would put a massive crimp in his quest for fame, glory and running triathlons.

Word is Misdemeanor Division head Joe Cullen will get that First Assistant spot which, considering he’s universally loathed by prosecutors and support staff alike, won’t make that rock bottom office morale situation any better.

To a lesser degree, McMahon has absolutely no interest in running a truly contested campaign because he’s never had to. He was appointed state’s attorney by then County Chairman Karen McConnaughay, and he’s never had to face a primary or general election opponent since.

But former Kane County prosecutor Jamie Mosser just announced her run for that gig, and from what I can see, she looks like a quality candidate. All signs point to 2020 being the year of the woman, so McMahon would have to pull out all the stops to beat her.

That means my source and I are starting to think he’ll try to capitalize on his successful Cook County Jason Van Dyke prosecution and catch on with a major downtown law firm. And that means head felony prosecutor Bill Engerman will throw his hat in the ring.

Considering the number of skeletons in his closet, I am fervently praying to the journalism gods that that will be the case. Talk about manna from heaven!

 

Why be incompetent at one job when you can be incompetent at two?

So, current Kane County Board member and 83rd District Illinois State Rep, Barbara Hernandez, a politician who’s never had an original thought, is going to keep both jobs? Why am I not surprised?

To be fair, she will no longer be accepting the 25 grand a year and Cadillac benefits package those-part time county board members receive, but not even Elgin State Senator Cristina Castro tried to pull off that possibility.

For background purposes, Ms. Hernandez is a Linda Chapa LaVia protégé who was appointed to the state rep gig after Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker tabbed Chapa LaVia as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

The irony there is, former Kane County Board member and legend in his own mind, Brian Pollock, a man who’s responsible for more campaign losses than the Italian Army, thought he was gonna be anointed as her successor.

But Chapa LaVia’s tragic flaw is her vast insecurities which mean she’ll turn on a friend in a heartbeat, and she’d never put someone in that state rep seat she couldn’t completely control. Hernandez’ claim to fame is simply taking up space while smirking at her colleagues.

Carpool Dummy

State Rep Barbara Hernandez – I think!

In response to her recent vast County Board absences, that body is about to approve a non-binding conduct policy specifically targeting Ms. Hernandez who’s only managed to make it to 38 percent of board and committee meetings since getting the state rep gig.

Hernandez told the Daily Herald that May was “a bit hectic” and she said that “The people elected me, and I want to continue representing them…,” which is an outright lie. The real reason Hernandez won’t step down is she wants to prevent Chairman Chris Lauzen from appointing a replacement who would be more sympathetic to his causes.

You see, the Aurora Dems – a group who puts the “fun” in dysfunctional – are still seething at Lazuen for defeating former Aurora County Board member Don Ishmael in 2018. I tried to tell Chris it’s bad practice for any chairman to unseat any board member, but they all do it anyway. So, now their twofold goal is to win a Democratic board majority, which would stymie the Chairman’s agenda, and then defeat him.

But the Aurora Dems can’t even get themselves re-elected, much less defeat a man who will be chairman as long as he want’s to be chairman.

So, here’s my original thought! Since you clearly can’t shame Hernandez or the Aurora Democrats into doing the right thing, all those concerned board members really have to do is insert one of those carpool lane dummies equipped with a long brown wig into her board seat.

Trust me! No one will be able to tell the difference.

Quick Hits – Sexual harassment – in sixth grade? Part 3

If you’re just catching up with us, please be sure to read part 1 and part 2 first.

“So, Jeff! If you’re convinced this is the best possible outcome for Christine and Emily, why did you get involved?”

Because like most of you, “Christine,” “Emily’s” mother, didn’t understand how the Kane County justice system really “works.” That’s not a judgement! Even after covering the players and dozens of cases in 13 years, there are times the process continues to baffle me.

To wit, even with that lengthy reporting resume, I still had to reach out to a number of experts to get the story straight.

“Regular” people don’t understand that, especially in cases involving juveniles, the Sheriff won’t necessarily bring charges, the state’s attorney may choose not to prosecute, and going before a judge is always a complete crapshoot, especially the family court variety.

The second problem was a too-typical lack of communication between law enforcement and a very concerned mother. Christine said the first time she heard the diversion program included a no contact order was after doing a segment on ABC 7 news, and she didn’t realize the Sheriff’s office was monitoring the offender’s social media and cell phone use until I told her.

Of course, Rich Wistocki and Sheriff Ron Hain told me they explained absolutely everything to Christine.

But I refuse to point fingers here because it would be utterly pointless. Ever since a disgruntled and mentally ill plaintiff murdered Chicago federal Judge Joan Lefkow’s father and husband in 2005, I’ve been advocating for a justice system social service arm that would facilitate communications between officers, prosecutors, judges and crime victims.

I understand budgetary constraints are always an issue, but trust me, that kind of intervention would save the taxpayers a ton of money in mitigated lawsuits alone.

The closest thing to that possibility was the State’s Attorneys Victim’s Rights unit, but they were disbanded in 2018 when State’s Attorney Joe McMahon was so busy with the Cook County Jason Van Dyke prosecution that his office lost the grant funding that program.

As a result of a miscommunication with Sheriff Hain, Christine thought she couldn’t go the Geneva middle school and get the offender removed from Emily’s team. She errantly believed that if she mentioned this boy’s name to anyone, she could be sued by his parents.

While that’s certainly true for outing a minor on social media, D304 administrators are similarly bound by privacy rules and the district’s burden of proof in harassment cases is not nearly beyond any reasonable doubt. They’ll always err on the side of caution.

So sadly, Emily had to see this boy every day in seventh grade, and as you might imagine, that did nothing to heal her emotional state. Christine has since gone to the school board and appropriate administrators to ensure things will be different in eighth grade.

A judge also told me to encourage Christine to start talking with the Geneva High School resource officer now, so he’ll be better prepared to deal with the issue next year.

Though I’m certainly sold on BeSure Consulting’s efforts, I’d like to see the Sheriff and Wistocki amend the program such that the appropriate school administrators are notified so they can immediately and effectively deal with the issue. I’d also like to see a judicial oversight element much like there is in Kane County’s successful Drug Court.

I’m not talking about parents having to pay all sorts of legal fees and fines, but much like that annual drug court graduation, it would be a big plus if a judge got to make the final pronouncement on the offender’s status.

And when I used the word “outcome” here, it’s much more of a noun than verb. There is no happy ending to this story. Even if one of the parties moves away, given the glories of the Internet, the cyber sexual harassment could start up again at any time. I don’t think that’ll be the case, but no mother on the planet could completely dismiss that possibility.

In the end, the main reason I wrote this three-part series is Wistocki’s and my belief that the underlying cause of cyberstalking is a complete lack of parental oversight. Silly me! I thought putting my sons’ computer in the family room was the height of fatherly responsibility, but if I had to do it over again, I would’ve installed the very same monitoring software that now resides on Emily’s new cellphone.

First, 20 percent of 10- to 17-year old girls will receive some sort of online sexual solicitation and that number is growing on a daily basis. Ironically, we’re still focused on the whole stranger danger thing while the real predators are coming directly into their bedroom through an ever-expanding capacity for instant communication.

Parental monitoring

And second, there’s the far more terrifying prospect that it could be our son or daughter who’s doing the cyberbullying. As previously stipulated, I fervently believe this revelation has rocked this boy’s family to their very core. The problem is that none of us want to believe our son or daughter is capable of this kind of destructive behavior.

When a boy asked an attorney friend’s 11-year-old daughter if he could text her, she said “Sure, but my mother reads all my texts,” and that was the end of it. After her daughter explained that interaction, her mother hired Wistocki to come out and set them up with all the necessary monitoring software and apps.

If you have similar doubts, I would encourage you to give BeSure Consulting a call because law enforcement simply can’t keep up with cyberstalking in all it’s various and expanding forms. As is always the case, I received no consideration for that recommendation.

Lastly, please tell your children not to give out theirs, or any classmate’s cellphone number to anyone who asks. And please be sure your sons, and especially your daughters, know that, if they do receive harassing texts or online messages, it’s not their fault and they can come to you with it.

As previously stipulated, I’ve written columns on more than 1,000 subjects, but none has thrown me off as much as this one has. If, thirteen years ago, you told me Wistocki would be doing sexting and sexual harassment presentations to fifth graders, I would’ve insisted that your significant other lock up the liquor cabinet.

Put more simply, I’m starting to think the Amish are really onto something.

Quick Hits – Sexual harassment – in sixth grade? Part 2

If you need to catch up with this story, please head over Monday’s Quick Hits because we’re going to dive right into the second installment.

Though the sexually explicit texts to “Emily” stopped immediately after her parents bought her a new phone, her mother, “Christine,” was not about to let it go. Having run into a brick wall in the form of then Sheriff Don Kramer, Christine actively supported Ron Hain’s candidacy in the hope he’d take this difficult situation far more seriously.

In the interim, using all the available resources, Christine narrowed the possibilities down to two sixth grade boys.

When Hain did win the election, he brought in BeSure Consulting principle Rich Wistocki, assigned a juvenile deputy to the case, and those sometimes-creaky wheels of justice finally began to roll forward. When Wistocki and the deputy visited the two families, the guilty party quickly confessed.

Cyberstalking

Having obtained Emily’s cellphone number from a classmate, this sixth-grade boy was savvy enough to route his texts through a Canadian website that allows stalkers to “spoof” other names and phone numbers. Understanding exactly what he was doing, the offender inserted other male classmates’ names into that Caller ID window to throw law enforcement off his trail.

But despite the culprit confessing, this was a case where the victim’s family soon started to think the cure was worse than the disease. Instead of putting this now seventh grade cyberstalker through the system, as Illinois State law clearly allows, Hain put him through Wistocki’s “diversion” program instead.

That meant there was no judicial oversight, Emily’s family would never know the final disposition of the case, and worse yet, as our criminal justice system affords all minors, the offender would enjoy the continued benefit of anonymity.

And let me tell you, that proposition certainly brought this journalist up short!

As Christine so aptly put it, “This stalker and sexual harasser seems to have more rights than my daughter did!” So, I reached out to Wistocki and we had a fascinating 30-minute conversation about how his program really works.

The young offender is required to watch a video describing exactly how sexual cyberstalking affects the victim and what the consequences will be if they continue that behavior. They’re also required to write a research paper on the subject.

In turn, the parents must watch a 90-minute video covering the potential consequences of cyberstalking and how they can more effectively monitor their children’s technology use. The device used to commit the crime must be confiscated, monitoring software must be installed on any other similar technology, and those usage “logs” must be regularly uploaded to the Sheriff’s juvenile office.

The parents must also agree to a no-contact order between the offender and the victim.

Should the offender fail to abide by any part of the program, it will mean going through the court system with all the associated attorney’s fees, expenses, and consequences.

Wistocki said, of the 50 children and teenagers who enrolled in the program between 2016 and 2017, four failed to complete it and were criminally charged and three reoffended and were also charged. That’s not a bad success rate.

With that information in hand, I reached out to a couple of local judges, some family attorneys, former prosecutors, and a high-raking school administrator to get their thoughts on Wistocki, his program and the scenario in general.

Most of them were aware of BeSure Consulting and they didn’t have a negative thing to say about Wistocki, which, when you consider the lingering and vast animosities that dominate the Kane County Judicial Center, is a real rarity. One attorney who’d hired Wistocki after her 11-year-old daughter received a suspect text, raved about him.

A judge who attended a BeSure seminar said Wistocki certainly had the credentials to provide these services though he was wary of “one size fits all solutions.”

But the most fascinating feedback came from another judge and the former prosecutors who told me that judges hate hearing these cases and they’re particularly reticent to issue no-contact orders involving juveniles. They explained the greater problem is that neither our Springfield legislators nor the courts can keep up with the technology involved, the growing frequency of sexting and cyberstalking, and that it’s regularly starting to occur at the elementary school level.

Wistocki said when he started doing this for the Naperville Police Department, he only went out to high schools. Now he’s getting requests to provide those presentations to fifth graders! Why do I suddenly want to ban the Internet?

The bottom line is, after applying the required due diligence, I’m convinced that, given the vagaries of the Kane County justice system, this is the best possible outcome for Emily and her family. The sad truth is, while some 16th Circuit judges fail to back up their own orders, the Sheriff’s Office will have no problem enforcing the no-contact order signed by the offender’s parents.

Better yet, if this young man does reoffend, a former prosecutor told me the judge will quickly note that he was given every opportunity to improve but failed to do so. And that judge will do everything in his or her power to ensure it doesn’t happen a third time.

 

Quick Hits – Sexual harassment – in sixth grade?

Perhaps it’s time to stop saying, “In thirteen years of authoring over two-thousand columns, I thought I’d seen it all,” because King Solomon was clearly wrong! There is always something new under the journalistic sun, and sadly, the problem with that philosophical postulate is those regular revelations are rarely of a positive nature.

And that’s certainly the case here. Graphic sexual harassment and stalking in sixth grade? I had difficulty just typing that sentence. I know every generation laments their successors will be the ones to bring about civilization’s downfall, but I’m really starting to think this group might be it.

But before we get into it, I want to be clear that the Geneva School District did nothing wrong. They were completely unaware of this situation until very recently and the School Board’s response since then has been excellent. We’ll get into the reason for that in part two.

And as much as I’d like to find the “villain” in what will likely be a three-part series, there is none. Former Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer comes closest for dropping the ball when the case initially reached his desk, but everyone knew he’d checked out long before his single term ended.

The current Sheriff, Ron Hain, did take the bull by the horns when it became his problem, but to say that shunting a juvenile offender off into a “diversion program” run by a consultant with no judicial oversight made me “nervous” would be the most massive of understatements.

Considering he hired Elgin City Councilman Corey Dixon to do a job for which he is eminently unqualified, I wondered if there was some quid-pro-quo here, too.

But when I spoke with former Naperville Police Detective and BeSure Consulting owner, Rich Wistocki, I was impressed with his mission, his program, and his success rate. Not to mention that a number of local judges and attorneys had nothing negative to say about him which is a real rarity in our beyond incestuous criminal justice system.

Then there’s an amazingly persistent mother who’s doing her damndest to protect her daughter. But when you’re faced with a complicated crime like this one, and you don’t begin to understand the vast intricacies and fascinating personalities that permeate the Kane County Judicial Center, you start feeling like the best you can do is tread water.

There’s also a young boy who, having likely learned this behavior from a sibling and/or the Net, has decided to address his own pain by inflicting even more pain on someone else. The kneejerk response, especially for any father of any daughter, would be to vilify him or worse, but what purpose would that serve? There will always be predators.

Though the point often gets lost, at the very core of our criminal justice system is the belief that, with rare exception, human beings can be rehabilitated. And that should be especially true of middle schoolers.

Unless they’re beyond dysfunctional, I’m sure this boy’s family is mortified by this hard-to-comprehend rude awakening. I know I was shocked when I read the texts, so I can only imagine their hearts sinking directly through the floor. None of us want to believe our sixth-grade son is capable of this kind of misogynistic stalking.

But the worst part is, the least culpable person in all this, an innocent 13-year-old girl, is the one who’s suffering the most. We know life isn’t fair but talk about having to learn that difficult lesson at an absurdly young age! I’ve met and spoken with this young woman and I’m convinced she’ll become stronger for it, but that’s a very small solace when you see your daughter in that kind of pain.

Sexual Harassment 2

I also know the names of all the people involved, but no responsible journalist would out a juvenile offender unless they were tried as an adult, and, in the end, the names are immaterial. It’s the story that matters. So, let’s start covering this cautionary tale.

For our purposes, we’ll refer to this then 12-year-old girl as “Emily,” and we’ll call her mother “Christine.”

The series of graphic texts started June 7, 2018 while the family was on vacation. Normally, Christine would’ve caught it immediately because she checks her daughter’s flip (not smart) phone on a daily basis. But we all relax the rules on vacation, so two days later, Christine was horrified to discover an unknown young male describing multiple scenarios in which her daughter was being repeatedly sodomized and sexually assaulted by a group of boys.

The reason Emily didn’t tell her mother right away is, when confronted with stalking of this insidious sexual nature, most sixth grade girls somehow believe it’s their fault and she was terrified of getting into serious trouble. When a frantic Christine asked her if she knew who this boy was, Emily started shaking and broke down sobbing.

So, they blocked that number and there were no more texts for a month.

But then they started up again from a different phone number. Christine tried to bait the boy into revealing who he was, or they were, but it didn’t work, so they blocked that one, too. After a third round of texts came from yet another number in August, Emily’s parents bought her a new phone and told her to only give the new number out to a select group of friends.

That may have ended the harassment, but the story was just beginning.

 

On Wednesday, we’ll delve into the Sheriff’s Office investigation, the consultant’s involvement, and the disposition of the case.