Crime & Courts

Prosecution of Crystal Lake lawyer continues after judge rules arrest, search was proper

Donald F. Franz, 50, Crystal Lake, was charged Jan. 19 with aggravated driving under the influence, aggravated battery and aggravated resisting a peace officer, among several other charges.
Donald F. Franz, 50, Crystal Lake, was charged Jan. 19 with aggravated driving under the influence, aggravated battery and aggravated resisting a peace officer, among several other charges.

WOODSTOCK – Prosecutors will go ahead with a case against a Crystal Lake lawyer facing drunken driving and weapons charges after a judge ruled that evidence against him could be used at trial because the arrest and search of his vehicle were proper.

Donald F. Franz, 50, appeared in court Thursday with his defense lawyer, Dan Hofmann, to be heard on a motion to suppress evidence stemming from his driving under the influence arrest. Hofmann filed the motion arguing that several pieces of evidence were gathered from what he said was an unlawful search, seizure and illegal arrest, meaning all of the information gathered should not be able to be used at trial.

Franz has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Judge Val Gunnarsson of the 15th Circuit Court was appointed after 22nd Judicial Circuit judges recused themselves from the case involving a local attorney. Special prosecutor Charles Colburn also was appointed to the case after the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office cited a potential conflict of interest.

Franz was arrested Jan. 19 by members of the Crystal Lake Police Department after they got a call that a white Subaru was swerving on a roadway in McHenry. The caller told dispatchers that she followed the vehicle to downtown Crystal Lake near North Williams Street.

Crystal Lake officer Lisa Tietz responded to North Williams Street and found a white Subaru Outback parked illegally outside 3 N. Williams St. that matched the description the caller gave.

Tietz, who testified at a hearing Thursday, said she shined her flashlight into the car and saw what appeared to be an open bottle of Stella Artois, Franz sitting in the driver seat and keys in the ignition.

Franz then took the keys out of the ignition and started to get out of the car. Tietz said she told him several times to stay in the car, but he did not listen. She said she told him he was obstructing her, and eventually said he was under arrest. While trying to handcuff him, Tietz said he resisted and continued to resist, so she had to get him to the ground to try and control him.

Tietz said she called for help over the radio and to anyone walking by because she could not control Franz because he was much larger than she and was resisting.

Franz continued to make his way to his office with Tietz on his back until they approached the stairs, when several officers arrived at the scene. Tietz said as many as 12 police officers responded to the address.

Franz eventually was searched, handcuffed and put into a squad car. He told officers he had a handgun in his right pocket, which they found. Officers then searched his car and found several rounds of ammunition.

Crystal Lake police obtained a warrant to search Franz’s residence and found 36 high-powered rifles, assault-style rifles and shotguns; 20 assorted handguns; and thousands of rounds of ammunition, authorities have said. Franz is believed to be a hunter.

Hofmann argued that based on the officer’s testimony, it was not clear whether Franz was the one driving the car the caller reported, nor did officials know how long he had been sitting in the car. He said his client was not under arrest when Tietz told him to stay in the car, and he therefore was free to leave.

Colburn disagreed with Hofmann’s statements and said the motion had no legal basis on the facts of the case.

Gunnarsson said he would deny the defense’s motion because Tietz had every reason to suspect that the vehicle she came across on Williams Street might have been driven by a person under the influence given the way it was parked and the description given to police by the 911 caller.

Gunnarsson said that after Tietz saw the open alcohol container, Franz in the driver’s seat and the open alcohol bottle, she had the right to be there and further investigate. Gunnarsson said Franz was physically interfering with her ability to do her job when he resisted, and he had no right to evade a lawful arrest.

Officers had the right to search him and his vehicle because he was under arrest, Gunnarsson said.

The case is set for trial Sept. 11.

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