Though I’m not entirely sure my most ardent “fans” would classify me as a “good guy,” and this “victory” certainly comes at a steep personal and financial price. Please tell me, how does one “un-ring” the bell of a domestic violence conviction? As one attorney friend put it yesterday, “Where do you go to get your reputation back?”
But the best thing about this three-plus year ordeal is I never lost it. The people who are convinced I sit somewhere south of Joe Stalin will remain steadfast in their belief and the friends and readers who’ve always believed in me will continue to do so. I promise I will continue to do my best to earn that faith and never take it for granted.
So, yes! Yesterday, the Second District Illinois Court of Appeals, in a 2 to 1 ruling, overturned my bullshit domestic violence conviction and they did so in no uncertain terms. Those justices essentially said that Ogle County Judge Clayton Lindsey should’ve granted trial attorney, Jeff Meyer’s, motion for a directed verdict.
For the legally uninitiated, to quote the Cornell Law School “A directed verdict is a ruling entered by a trial judge after determining that there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to reach a different conclusion.” Put more simply, the State’s case was so full of holes they never should’ve gone to trial. Or as Mr. Meyer put it, “This wasn’t just a reversal, it was the strongest reversal on appeal I’ve ever participated in!” He also publicly posted this:
You were innocent from the inception. I’m grateful for the opportunity you and Brick [Van Der Snick] gave me to help represent you in the trial court and very pleased to see the Appellate Court has vindicated you and confirmed we were right in our argument that, at the close of its evidence, the State did not even present a prima facie case sufficient to be given to the jury for deliberation. It should never have gone that far nor taken this much time, work, and expense to obtain your acquittal.
Jeff and I estimated that just 0.5 percent of trials end with a directed verdict and now he’s helped secured two of them on my behalf. I keep trying to tell him he’s wasting his time in the civil realm, but who listens to me? You can read the entire 56 page (on a misdemeanor!) Appellate Court ruling right here!
And if two directed verdicts aren’t beyond-any-reasonable-doubt evidence that Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, the Geneva Police, and the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office under Joe McMahon were intent on shutting me up, then nothing is. Ain’t it funny how, in 62 long years on this third rock from the sun, I’ve never been arrested anywhere outside the city of Geneva! So now, the Geneva Police have come after me six times and I’ve beaten them all six times.
Though this appellate ruling certainly brings an immense sense of relief, there are some things I will neither forgive nor forget:
1. How the Geneva Police “coached” the lone civilian witness into presenting their version of events on the stand. That comes from a source deep within the department.
2. How even after coaching her, the two officers and their witness couldn’t get their stories straight.
3. How officers Matt Hann’s and George Carbray’s testimony was the stuff of pure fiction.
4. Because I uncovered the truth about her brother, and a DeKalb County judge previously acquitted me, how then Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles “shopped” for a rural out-of-county judge which greatly increased the odds of a conviction.
5. How assigning an utterly unknown judge forced us to go to a jury trial, and this sham of a prosecution is proof that no one should EVER put their fate in the hands of twelve people who can’t get out of jury duty.
6. How Judge Clayton Lindsay subverted the law at every turn. I’m not sure if it was willful or sheer incompetence, but this man shouldn’t be judging a sixth-grade science fair, much less be sitting on the bench.
7. How KCSAO prosecutor Margaret O’Brien blatantly lied while questioning my wife during the trial. I understand we all have a job to do, but resorting to the worst kind of falsehoods when your case is teetering on the brink should mean the end of your legal career. I will work through the appropriate channels to see that happens.
8. How, while on the stand, officer Carbray went on a five-minute rant about how much he despised me. Though I suppose I should be grateful for that kind of poor judgement because it clearly undermined the conviction.
9. How Geneva Police Chief Eric Passarelli and officer Carbray went out of their way to show up at the sentencing hearing to ask Judge Lindsey for the stiffest possible penalty. Realizing it would entail yet more reversible error, O’Brien correctly refused to let them testify.
10. How the Daily Herald, and particularly then reporter Harry Hitzeman, leapt upon my conviction with malicious glee by posting it all over social media.
11. How Elgin city councilman Tish Powell made a point of broadcasting my conviction everywhere she possibly could.
Those transgressions will not go unanswered.
But so much more importantly, I want to thank:
1. The long-time attorney friend who, when I was certain justice would never prevail, convinced me to fight this injustice by making the perfect argument. Without his intercession, this victory never would’ve happened.
2. Attorney Brick Van Der Snick who not only took on the case, but was smart enough to ask Jeff Meyer to be his second.
3. Jeff Meyer who’s doggedly defended me despite suffering the slings and arrows of so many of his Republican friends as a result. (I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but despite my stellar personality, some people just don’t like me!) And I would be willing to hazard a guess that successfully arguing for two consecutive directed verdicts on behalf of the same client is a first the annals of U.S. legal history. Journalism would be so much more difficult without Jeff’s unwavering support.
4. Appellate Court Justice Joe Birkett for rendering and writing EXACTLY the ruling that should’ve been rendered.
5. Despite their best efforts to blow it, I want to thank Jamie Mosser and Rachel Hess for writing the kind of appellate brief that left no doubt as to the outcome. Though the paperwork currently says “pro se,” that small legal maneuver didn’t come until the very end. I haven’t been so sure about it recently, but running Jamie’s state’s attorney campaign in return for her participation in this appeal may well be the best deal I’ve ever struck.
6. My friends and readers who’ve always seen through these repeated malicious prosecutions and insistent police harassment. Few people ever find themselves in a position where those relationships are truly tested and I am beyond pleased to report I didn’t lose a single friend. Apparently there’s no accounting for some folks’ taste. All kidding aside, your ongoing support meant and still means the world to me. Just don’t tell anyone I said that!
7. Most importantly, my wife, who not only fully supported me throughout this ordeal, but provided the kind kick-ass testimony those appellate justices quoted at every turn. Despite the disruptions that being a journalist has brought into our lives, she’s never asked me to stop telling the truth.
So, as it turns out, I’m a very lucky man – including the fact that I had the resources to effectively fight back against the full weight of the State. The justice system is particularly unkind to those who can’t afford to do that.
All that said, the somewhat sad and ironic part of this bizarre tale is it isn’t over – and it has nothing to do with me! You see, this appeal sets a new precedent, and if you read between those lengthy ruling lines, you’ll note the Appellate Court basically begs the Illinois Supreme Court to step in resolve this “insulting and provoking” contact issue once and for all.
As it stands now, regardless of a willing partner, BDSM aficionados could be charged and convicted under the same pretense because “reasonable” people can’t legally consent to being “beaten.” That doesn’t mean the high court will take the case, but if they do, it means another year to year-and-a-half of waiting. If I ever find the bleep who cursed me with “may you live in interesting times” I hope one of you is willing to come up with bail money.
But everything previously stipulated aside, the best part is I break into a Cheshire Cat grin at the prospect of saying, “I stand before you as a man with no convictions.”
And that feels damn good.