Former McHenry County Board candidate Orville Brettman said he doesn’t remember much of the testimony he gave before a grand jury in 1975, but the prosecutor who questioned Brettman recalled the exchange in “unflinching detail,” one Chicago attorney said.
Earlier this year, Brettman and fellow former County Board candidate Ersel Schuster filed a joint defamation lawsuit claiming they were wrongfully depicted in 2018 campaign flyers as having a “history of hate.”
Brettman has said that a group of unknown socialists fabricated a transcript of his 1975 grand jury testimony, in which he admitted to being involved with a right-wing paramilitary group known as the Legion of Justice. However, Chicago attorney Natalie Harris, who represents the anonymous group responsible for mailing the flyers, believes she has found a way to authenticate the transcript – and Brettman’s testimony.
In a document filed Friday evening, Harris attached two affidavits: one from the attorney who included Brettman’s testimony in another client’s post-conviction petition and another from the assistant state’s attorney who questioned Brettman more than 40 years ago.
“Rather than relent and concede to the truth, Brettman has doubled down on his lies, swearing under oath that ... his grand jury testimony transcript is a fake,” Harris wrote in her Friday court filing. “Brettman made a risky wager, and it did not pay off.”
Brettman’s is one of a handful of suits that have been filed against a faceless group known as the “Illinois Integrity Fund,” which mailed the flyers throughout the county before the March 2018 primary election.
The flyers referenced news articles that reported Brettman’s ties to the Legion of Justice, which was responsible for bombing an Elgin church in the early 1970s, as well as raids against left-wing groups.
In 1975, a Cook County grand jury was investigating allegations that the Chicago Police Department was sharing intelligence data with groups, including the Legion of Justice.
Brettman was granted immunity in exchange for his grand jury testimony, according to the previously sealed transcript, which resurfaced years later as an exhibit in an appeal.
Despite Brettman’s claims that speaking about his testimony would violate a Cook County court order, Kane County Judge Kevin Busch ruled Aug. 9 and again Thursday that Brettman must answer questions under oath about his alleged ties to the Legion of Justice.
In his response filed Friday, Brettman maintained his claims that the grand jury transcript is illegitimate and denied involvement with the Legion of Justice.
Specifically, Brettman denied participating in a break-in at the Socialist Worker’s Party offices in 1969. He also denied being with a man named Joseph Powers the night Powers used explosives to destroy a church in Elgin.
Harris said Brettman could be perjuring himself by denying any involvement with the extremist group.
“Brettman is improperly seeking to use the transcript as both a sword and a shield,” Harris wrote.
Reached by phone Friday evening, Brettman said he’s not concerned and hasn’t seen either of the affidavits.
“No, I’m not worried about anything at this point in time,” Brettman said.
Brettman referred additional questions to his attorney, James Bishop, who could not be reached after hours Friday.
The case is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday on Harris’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that it violates Illinois’ anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation law, which is intended to protect citizens’ First Amendment rights from retaliatory civil action.
If Brettman were to acknowledge his alleged involvement with a group called the Legion of Justice, he could be punished for abusing the judicial system by filing a retaliatory lawsuit.
Additional suits filed by former McHenry County Board member Michael Rein, County Board member Chuck Wheeler and McHenry County Clerk and Recorder Joe Trio also allege defamation by the Illinois Integrity Fund.
“Plaintiffs have anointed themselves as the ‘Five McHenry County Musketeers’ along with their political allies, Joseph Tirio, Michael Rein and Chuck Wheeler, and banded together to conspire to muzzle and eliminate the Illinois Integrity Fund’s exercise of protected First Amendment rights,” Harris wrote.
In December, Richard Lewandowski, president of Breaker Press – the Chicago-based union mail-order house that printed the attack mailers against Tirio before the March primary – named Michael Noonan, McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks’ former campaign director; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and Sean Tenner, a former aide of Barack Obama and owner of KNI Communications, as the people behind the Illinois Integrity Fund.
Harris has appealed a McHenry County judge’s ruling that the flyers could be considered defamatory. Harris and Tirio’s attorney, Philip Prossnitz, are scheduled to give oral arguments before an appellate court Aug. 27.