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People v. Barton

OPINION FILED MARCH 1, 1984.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

JAMES BARTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. Edward Ferguson, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied April 5, 1984.

An indictment charging defendant, James Barton, with two counts of bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, and one count of official misconduct was returned by the grand jury of Madison County. On motion of defendant, the trial court entered an order dismissing the indictment because of prosecutorial misconduct. The State appeals.

The charges against defendant were based on allegations that defendant, in his capacity as Madison County Supervisor of Assessments, had accepted $1,000 from William Nichols and gave $500 of the money to Walter Greathouse, a member of the Madison County Zoning Board of Appeals, in order to obtain Greathouse's approval of a special-use permit requested by Mr. Nichols.

Defendant filed a pretrial motion requesting suppression of statements made by him on November 5, 1982, to an assistant State's Attorney and an Illinois Division of Criminal Investigation agent. The motion alleged that defendant had been denied his constitutional right to counsel. The trial court granted defendant's motion and entered an order suppressing the statements made by defendant.

Subsequently, defendant filed an amended motion to dismiss the indictment alleging, inter alia, that misconduct on the part of the Madison County State's Attorney had deprived him of due process of law. At the hearing on the motion to dismiss, Marvin Darling, a former administrative assistant of the Madison County State's Attorney, Don W. Weber, testified that in May 1981, Mr. Weber stated that he would get defendant. The parties subsequently stipulated to the introduction of the following evidence and exhibits into evidence:

Mr. Weber was elected State's Attorney of Madison County on November 4, 1980, and, a few days later, declared that the public wanted a prosecutor like "Attilla the Hun." Mr. Weber also pledged to investigate defendant.

On March 30, 1981, after a grand jury had failed to return an indictment against defendant for making improper property assessments, Mr. Weber publicly commented that "[t]here may not be criminal activity * * *, but there might be grounds for dismissal or other disciplinary action." On May 15, 1981, Mr. Weber stated that he would comply with a recommendation made in the grand jury report that he release to the Madison County Board a report made by the Illinois Division of Criminal Investigation concerning defendant's activities in office.

On November 12, 1982, the newspaper media became aware of the fact that a new grand jury investigation of defendant was being conducted. That same day, defendant gave an interview to a newspaper reporter who had learned of the grand jury investigation. On November 16, 1982, Mr. Weber publicly announced that he would ask the grand jury to indict defendant for conspiracy to commit bribery and stated that William Nichols had told investigators that he gave defendant money for the purpose of influencing a zoning board of appeals decision. The next day, further comments from the State's Attorney were published concerning defendant's case.

On November 18, 1982, Mr. Weber told reporters that the indictment he sought against defendant for conspiracy to commit bribery was "not an iffy case." The State's Attorney commented to the press about the testimony of William Nichols and stated that defendant "never was cleared of impropriety despite the finding of insufficient evidence" by the 1981 grand jury. On November 19, 1982, the State's Attorney suggested publicly that defendant was a "corrupt official." A few days later, defendant proclaimed his innocence in a newspaper interview. On November 24, 1982, there were a number of newspaper articles concerning Illinois Division of Criminal Investigation inquiries regarding defendant's alleged involvement in the bribery scheme.

On December 1, 1982, Mr. Weber again publicly urged that defendant be fired as Madison County Supervisor of Assessments. The following day, Mr. Weber urged that the defendant be "canned" prior to trial. When a reporter asked whether defendant should be considered innocent prior to trial, Mr. Weber replied that "[p]eople just don't understand the law." On December 6, 1982, a newspaper acknowledged that defendant's statements which were later suppressed were included in the discovery materials made available to the press by the prosecution. On December 16, 1982, Mr. Weber announced to the press his frustration with the Madison County Board's failure to fire defendant and said that he would seek an additional indictment against defendant for official misconduct. A day later, while commenting on the additional charge being sought against defendant, the State's Attorney said, "I want to make sure that I get him."

In early January 1983, Mr. Weber mailed a packet of material to the Madison County Board. The materials sent included Illinois Department of Criminal Investigation reports, a memorandum concerning dismissal procedures, and polygraph results suggesting deception on the part of Walter Greathouse. The incident and a description of the items mailed were reported in the newspaper.

On February 18, 1983, Mr. Weber was present at a public meeting attended by approximately 150 people. At this meeting Mr. ...


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