WOODSTOCK – A sex case involving a health care worker came to an abrupt end Thursday when a McHenry County judge declared a mistrial after finding that a witness had violated a court order.
A new trial for 25-year-old Angelo J. Bird was set for Nov. 3.
Bird, formerly of Woodstock, was working as a certified nursing assistant at Crystal Pines Rehabilitation & Health Care Center in September 2011 when he was accused of putting his middle finger in the vagina of a 93-year-old resident.
The woman suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. She died in January 2012.
At earlier court proceedings, defense attorneys filed and were allowed a motion that is designed to bar certain testimony from being elicited or introduced at trial. In this specific court filing, defense attorneys asked McHenry County Judge Michael Feetterer to ban any mention of or reference to a polygraph test administered on Bird.
Prosecutors didn’t object because in Illinois courts, it’s a general rule that such testimony not be introduced, mostly because test results can be unreliable. Assistant State’s Attorney Sharyl Eisenstein said she was careful to avoid questioning her first witness on these lines.
But the witness, Secret Service agent Booker Wright, who administered the polygraph on Bird, twice said the words “test” on the witness stand and in the presence of the jury.
It brought immediate objections from defense attorney Jamie Wombacher, and after jurors were excused, she asked Feetterer for a mistrial.
The judge said in order to allow the case to move forward, he had to trust that the jury collectively missed the words, or that they were unable to make the connection.
“That’s the leap I would have to make in order to keep the trial pure and untainted,” Feetterer said, adding later: “This is not something that any of us wanted to have happen, but there are certain things I have to do to ensure a fair trial.”
The mistrial came after attorneys spent a day and a half selecting 12 jurors and two alternates.
“You can’t help but be frustrated, but it would be an error for us not to ask,” defense attorney Rebecca Lee said.
A small group of jurors said outside the courtroom they didn’t notice Wright say “test.”
In her opening statement, Eisenstein said Bird provided a written statement to police in which he admitted to the crime, saying he did so “out of curiosity,” and that “it was a spur of the moment decision.”
But Wombacher countered that any admissions Bird made to police were those of a naive then-22-year-old. In fact, she said, in his first two written statements he denied the allegations. He only admitted to the crime because police convinced him to say he did it, she said.
After the allegations surfaced, Bird was suspended for a week from Crystal Pines, but later maintained employment there until his arrest at least three weeks later on charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault. If convicted, he faces between six and 30 years in prison.
This case has been lodged in the McHenry County court system since 2011.
A judge previously ruled that, since she passed away, the alleged victim’s statements were inadmissible hearsay. The state appealed, and the higher court ruled her statements could be introduced at trial.
Before her death, a civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of the alleged victim against Bird, Crystal Pines, its parent company and its administrator. The suit seeks more than $50,000 for allegations that the nursing home failed to protect the woman from abuse, among other accusations.