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Special prosecutor denied, Bianchi can investigate Undersheriff

WOODSTOCK – A judge this morning denied a sheriff's sergeant's request for a special prosecutor to investigate allegations that Undersheriff Andrew Zinke interfered with a federal drug investigation, but the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office said it could look into the matter.

"It's our position that the allegations do not give rise to a conflict of interest," Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs said. "We can investigate the matter ... we don't believe that anybody should be appointed."

Combs said his office is not currently representing Zinke, rather some legal matters involving him are being handled by outside counsel.

In making his decision, Judge Thomas A. Meyer cited a ruling he made in April, when he declined to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Sheriff Keith Nygren based on allegations made by a deputy.

Meyer said he has "been through this backwards and forwards" – the decision whether to investigate and possibly prosecute relies exclusively with the state's attorney.

There is no per se conflict between the Sheriff's Office and the State's Attorney's Office, he said.

In documents filed last week, Sgt. John Koziol alleges that Zinke tipped off the owner of a Crystal Lake business that Koziol said was part of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into the transportation of thousands of pounds of marijuana.

RITA Corporation's owner, Brian Goode, is a close friend of Zinke's and has contributed to the political campaigns of Sheriff Keith Nygren and, more recently, Zinke.

Goode has said that his business was a victim, not a participant.

Goode said the marijuana apparently was placed on a truck by third parties attempting to smuggle it into the United States. He said neither he nor RITA Corp. had any knowledge of and was not involved in the marijuana being on the same truck as other materials being shipped to RITA Corp.

Zinke has said that Koziol is a disgruntled employee who recently was transferred out of the narcotics unit to patrol.

McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi, who attended a campaign even last week for one of Zinke's political opponents, would not comment on whether his office will investigate but said he has consulted with the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"Our policy is to never admit that's an investigation or deny that there's an investigation," Bianchi said.

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