The trial court did not abuse its discretion in disqualifying defendant’s counsel of choice from representing her in a prosecution for concealing or aiding a fugitive when two of her counsel’s former clients in related cases were potential witnesses for the prosecution in defendant’s case, thereby creating a conflict of interest for defendant’s counsel.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Tazewell County, No. 11-CF-97; the Hon. Stuart P. Borden, Judge, presiding.
Kerry J. Bryson, of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.
Stewart Umholtz, State's Attorney, of Pekin (Terry A. Mertel and Thomas D. Arado, both of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.
Panel JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion Presiding Justice Wright and Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Defendant, Michelle Jackson, was charged with concealing or aiding a fugitive. 720 ILCS 5/31-5 (West 2010). The State moved to disqualify her counsel because counsel also represented the person defendant was charged with harboring, along with an individual who was charged in a related case. The trial court granted the State's motion to disqualify, finding that counsel's prior representation of the two related individuals created the serious potential for a conflict of interest. Defendant appeals pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(g) (eff. July 1, 2006). We affirm.
¶ 2 FACTS
¶ 3 On February 25, 2011, defendant was charged with concealing or aiding a fugitive (720 ILCS 5/31-5 (West 2010)). On March 17, 2011, attorney Matthew Hoppock filed an appearance in her case.
¶ 4 The information alleged that on February 24, 2011, defendant harbored, aided, or concealed Jason McGlothlin with the intent to prevent his apprehension. Jason had been charged in two separate causes in Tazewell County for: (1) possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, criminal fortification of a residence, and possession of a stolen firearm; and (2) escape. Hoppock was the counsel of record in both of Jason's cases. He was also counsel of record for Jason's wife, Cristy McGlothlin. Cristy was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, criminal fortification of a residence, and possession of a stolen firearm, arising out of the same incident that formed the basis of Jason's first cause. Hoppock eventually withdrew from representation of Jason in his escape case to avoid a potential conflict of interest because of his concern that Cristy could appear as a State witness in that case.
¶ 5 On June 14, 2011, the State filed a motion to disqualify Hoppock as defendant's counsel. At the time the motion was filed, Hoppock was counsel of record in defendant's harboring case, Jason's drug and weapon case, and Cristy's drug and weapon case. During multiple hearings on the motion, the State made proffers to explain the factual background of defendant's case and the potential for conflict resulting from Hoppock's representation of defendant.
¶ 6 The State explained that on January 28, 2011, Jason and Cristy were both charged in the drug and weapon case; as a result, Cristy was taken into custody, and Jason allegedly fled. That night, defendant went to the McGlothlins' residence and took custody of the McGlothlins' two minor children. On February 25, 2011, police discovered Cristy and Jason present in defendant's residence. All three were taken into custody–Jason for his outstanding warrants, Cristy for a pretrial violation of her bond agreement, and defendant for concealing or aiding Jason.
¶ 7 Following Cristy's arrest, she gave sworn statements at her bond hearing concerning the events of February 24 and 25. She testified that on February 24 she was living at defendant's residence when Jason arrived. Defendant gave a statement to police in which she admitted being ...