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Crime & Courts

Special prosecutor case ends with no decision

ROCKFORD – Contempt proceedings against the special prosecutor once appointed to investigate State's Attorney Lou Bianchi concluded Thursday, but a judge said he needs time to digest the document-heavy case before reaching a decision.

The case against attorney Thomas McQueen centers on emails between McQueen and investigators from Quest Consultants. He is accused of withholding information that could have been useful to Bianchi's defense in two corruption trials. Such materials are required to be shared between parties.

Winnebago County Judge Joseph McGraw will render his decision on Jan. 10. If found guilty, McQueen could face a maximum of six months in jail.

The emails surfaced when more than 17,000 documents were turned over to Bianchi from Quest during a federal civil-rights case against McQueen and Henry Tonigan, another special prosecutor on the Bianchi case.

Tonigan since has settled the civil-rights case, agreeing to pay $157,500, but not admitting any fault.

McQueen's attorney Steve Puiszis called this week's proceedings a "selective prosecution," brought about by Bianchi and Ekl to get McQueen to settle the civil lawsuit.

If any witness statements were not tendered to the defense, or altered as Ekl claimed, it was inadvertent, Puiszis said, and not a willful violation of McGraw's orders. Before Bianchi's trials, the judge ordered McQueen to turn over all witness statements and the investigators' hand-written notes.

"What we have here is a good-faith effort by an honest man trying to comply with your honor's orders the best he can," Puiszis said.

McQueen took the stand Thursday for a drawn-out day of testimony, that grew tense at times.

Ekl accused McQueen of "outright lying" and being politically or financially motivated to force the state's attorney's resignation.

"The goal was to indict Lou Bianchi, those were your marching orders, wasn't it, Mr. McQueen?" Ekl said.

To which McQueen fired back: "Who are these people, counsel?"

Bianchi was acquitted in both criminal cases – one in 2010 alleging he campaigned on county time, and in a second in 2011 in which he was accused of fixing cases for politically-connected defendants. Both were tossed before the defense presented any evidence.

The state's attorney and Ekl have called McQueen's alleged misconduct an affront to the court.

"This case is not about Lou Bianchi," Ekl said in his closing argument. "This case is not about Terry Ekl … This case is about the court's dignity and its authority to issue orders and have them complied with by lawyers."

Neither McQueen nor his attorneys wished to comment after court adjourned.

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