A former McHenry County assistant state’s attorney was told not to handle matters concerning his “personal friend,” but did so anyway, leading to his abrupt termination, records show.
Longtime Assistant State’s Attorney Michael P. Combs was terminated Aug. 24 for what he described as helping his friend Tracy Tures in a scenario where he said he did not see any conflict.
Combs said Tures was arrested by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, which found she had a 13-year-old warrant out of Cook County after a deputy ran her license plate.
Seeing it was not a McHenry County case and Tures broke no local laws, Combs said, he did not see a conflict and did not object to her attorney’s motion to release her from the jail on recognizance.
According to an interoffice memo recently obtained by the Northwest Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request, State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally questioned Combs “repeatedly … why Combs got involved in Ms. Tures’ case in light of the fact that he had previously been told not to handle any of Ms. Tures’ matters.”
Kenneally told Combs that “it was a continuing problem for Combs to handle any of Ms. Tures’ matters based on Combs’ personal relationship with Ms. Tures as well as members of Ms. Tures’ family,” according to the memo.
Combs acknowledged Monday that he was told not to handle Tures’ matters but interpreted that to only pertain to McHenry County cases. He maintained his stance that it was a matter of her due process rights being violated.
In court, Combs told Judge Robert Wilbrandt that he knew Tures personally. He said she ought to be released because the warrant was invalid as it was 13 years old and did not state any details of the alleged crime for which it was issued.
The warrant stated only that Tures had a felony charge in 2007 for possession of a controlled substance, but no further details.
Combs had argued the validity of the warrant itself and said that Cook County would have taken too long to get to McHenry County to pick Tures up so she could deal with the matter in Cook County. Tures is the mother of two young children who works two jobs, Combs has said.
Combs also told Wilbrandt that Tures, of Marengo, works and lives in the county, had been in and out of the courthouse several times over the years and was never arrested for the warrant.
Wilbrandt agreed and Tures was released from the jail that day. When she was released, Cook County deputies were waiting for her in the parking lot.
She was taken to a Cook County jail and the following day the warrant was dismissed. The case has been closed, according to McHenry County website.
According to the memo, Kenneally did not dispute the validity of the warrant but said Combs “should not have taken the highly unusual act of advocating for a McHenry County judge to rule upon a Cook County matter and release a defendant who had a valid, no-bond warrant, without having made any contact with Cook County first or having discussed the matter with a supervisor.”
Kenneally also said “in view of [Combs’] personal relationship with Ms. Tures, he should have had no involvement with the matter,” according to the memo.
“Combs did not appear to understand or acknowledge the issue, he continued to argue that it was not improper for him to handle Ms. Tures’ case and said he would do it again,” according to the memo.
James Graham, a Chicago-based defense attorney, who has handled cases around the country for the last 38 years, said though what Combs did may not have appeared to be incredibly egregious, he defied a higher authority.
“He’s got a supervisor and he said to him, ‘You are too close to [her]. Don’t go in there and basically stick your nose in the middle of this,’” said Graham, who is not connected to the matter or the state’s attorney’s office.
By going in as a prosecutor on Tures’ case, Graham said, Combs didn’t follow the instructions from the county’s lead state’s attorney.
“I don’t think what he did was that out of line,” he said. “It sounds like he used his prosecutorial discretion … The problem is the state’s attorney told him to keep his nose out of it.”
Combs was terminated the same day he appeared in court on Tures’ matter.
“I would make the same decision again if given the opportunity,” Combs told the Northwest Herald Monday.
Combs is now working as an attorney for Cohen and Donahue in Elgin.