ROCKFORD – A federal prosecutor said Wednesday that at least five people were contacted as part of an Algonquin attorney's plot to have his girlfriend's ex murdered – including a client who owed attorney fees.
The information was presented during Jason W. Smiekel's first scheduled court appearance since he was arrested last week.
Following a detention hearing, U.S. District Judge P. Michael Mahoney said he would allow Smiekel to be freed on home incarceration, but he gave prosecutors a day to decide whether they will appeal his decision.
Home incarceration is different than home detention in that it has more strict conditions, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John McKenzie.
Under the conditions of his release, Smiekel would not be allowed to leave his mother's house except under certain circumstances, such as to attend scheduled court dates or to meet with his attorney. Smiekel also must turn over his passport and surrender his FOID card, as well as have no direct or indirect contact with potential witnesses.
Smiekel's attorney, Mark Gummerson, cited his client's lack of a criminal history and emphasized how being arrested is a deterrent.
"I don't think the court can underestimate the chilling impact of being arrested," Gummerson said.
Smiekel, 29, is accused of trying to hire an undercover agent from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to kill his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend, who allegedly had information that could ruin Smiekel's career.
Prosecutors said Smiekel paid two men $8,000 to commit the murder – but they took off with the money – as well as solicited one of his own clients.
He also allegedly contacted a fourth man, who notified police and then served as a confidential informant, setting up a meeting with the ATF agent.
Sarah Tucker, a special ATF agent. but not the one involved in the meeting, briefly took the stand during a hearing to determine whether there was probable cause to believe a crime was committed.
She said there were some incorrect information in an affidavit she submitted, such as that Smiekel had at one time represented the alleged intended victim, not his girlfriend, and that it was a paternity case, not a divorce case.
At one point, McKenzie asked that the courtroom be closed to the public citing privacy rights of the alleged intended victim, but he withdrew the request after the judge stressed the importance of the public's right to know.