WOODSTOCK – McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi's civil division chief took the stand for about four hours Monday and testified that he helped prepare political documents for his boss.
Tom Carroll, who previously was demoted from a higher position as first assistant, said he filled out candidate questionnaires for media outlet editorial boards that took anywhere from a few hours to two days' worth of work.
Bianchi was indicted for the first time in September, accused of having employees perform campaign work on county time. He was charged with 21 counts: 19 counts of official misconduct, one count of conspiracy, and one count of unlawful communication with a grand jury witness.
His secretary, Joyce Synek, was named as a conspirator and charged with four counts of perjury, and one count each of obstructing justice and conspiracy. Synek was trained by Amy Dalby after Dalby left the position to attend Northern Illinois University. It was Dalby's claims that Bianchi had her do campaign work on county time that eventually led to his indictment.
Synek and Bianchi are being tried at the same time. The trial is in front of Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw but being held in McHenry County. Bianchi and Synek waived their right to a jury trial, so McGraw will determine the verdict.
Carroll further testified that during "management meetings," which included Bianchi and his other top employees, such as former criminal division chief Nichole Owens, they would prep Bianchi for newspaper endorsement meetings and perform other campaign-related duties.
The unlawful communication charge against Bianchi concerns Carroll alleging that Bianchi tried to persuade Carroll not to turn over subpoenaed documents.
Bianchi allegedly told Carroll that turning some of the documents over would be giving the impression that they were, in fact, political.
"I said while I believed some of the documents were not inappropriate, I still felt that I had to turn them over because they were respondent to the subpoena," Carroll said.
Bianchi's attorney, Terry Ekl, said there's an overlap between items that are political and State's Attorney's Office business. Plus, Carroll agreed that no one held a gun to his head to prepare politically related documents; he did them of his own volition and didn't believe he was doing anything wrong.
Ekl also accused Carroll of wanting Bianchi to resign so that Carroll could be appointed state's attorney. He further brought into evidence examples of Carroll using his county computer for personal purposes, such as visiting eBay and Facebook, as well as forwarding on e-mails that included nude photos.
Before Carroll took the stand, Dalby testified that she took documents from the office because she was concerned they might have been tied to something illegal.
Dalby said Bianchi directed her to perform campaign tasks such as typing up a letter and other documents related to his Festa Italiana fundraiser.
During cross examination by defense attorney Terry Ekl, Dalby admitted that she took more than 5,000 documents, including ones that were sensitive to homicide and sex cases. While she has said that she didn't do anything wrong and that she was not motivated by politics, Dalby also admitted that she did not turn over those documents for months – and that when she did, it was to a Bianchi "enemy."
During opening statements, special prosecutor Thomas McQueen said that for all the campaign work being done, the State's Attorney's Office could have been named the Office of the Committee to Re-elect Bianchi.
McQueen said that e-mails show that Synek and Bianchi were e-mailing back and forth an address and contacts list two days before Synek testified in front of a grand jury, saying she never did anything political and never deleted any political documents.
Ekl, however, said the prosecution's version was nothing but "smoke and mirrors" and "a pile of garbage." He said documents missing from Synek's computer were gone because of a virus that had infected her computer.
Regardless, Synek's attorney, Ernie DiBenedetto, said many of those documents were not political anyway, such as copies of her and her husband's will. He portrayed Synek as a mother and grandmother who worked as a dental assistant for 40 years before getting a job at the State's Attorney's Office despite little computer knowledge.
If Synek was the head of Bianchi's re-election campaign, he wouldn't have been elected dog catcher, DiBenedetto said.