Is the flesh-eating Heroin substitute in McHenry County?

Heroin is pretty scary stuff.  They’re claiming it’s on the rise again all over McHenry County.  I don’t have access to the numbers, but I’m not buying that there’s necessarily been a huge increase.  Every couple of years they say it’s “on the rise” or becoming an epidemic.  Despite possessing the stuff being a felony or even handing heroin to somebody who ends up overdosing (even if it’s somebody you’re using with), carrying some fairly harsh felony consequences, it hasn’t disappeared.

I know that deaths are up, although that’s not necessarily an indication that general usage patterns have substantially increased. It’s not uncommon for a batch of “bad heroin” (not that any of it is good) to cause a cluster of overdoses.  So deaths can actually rise and fall without any real correlation in total usage.

Anyhow, Krokodil use is on the rise, for sure.  The Northwest Herald seems to believe somebody in McHenry County has been hospitalized by the substance this week:

“Dangerous flesh-eating drug may have arrived in county

A nasty flesh-eating street drug may have made its way to McHenry County, experts warn.

Centegra Health System advised Tuesday that it may be treating someone who injected themselves with “krokodil,” a heroin substitute of Russian origin. The drug is a toxic cocktail of opiates like codeine and substances such as gasoline and lighter fluid.

The drug causes users’ skin to turn scaly and green, hence the name, which is the Russian word for crocodile. The skin subsequently rots and falls off.

Centegra said in a statement that it is treating an intravenous drug user who has large skin lesions. Because the drug is cheaper than heroin, and heroin use is on the rise in McHenry County, officials fear local hospitals could see more krokodil victims…”

Bad stuff right there. Don’t think so? Here’s video of a girl from Joliet showing you how nasty the sores are and talking about it:


I Still Remember

It’s been a year since the “Big Smooth” died.  Big Smooth is, of course Bill Gracik.  If you didn’t read what I posted about him last year, you owe it to the man to read it now. If you don’t owe it to him, you at least owe it to me.

I don’t know that I’ll have the chance to put something up here every year.  Most of my silly thoughts are ending up at Excessive Bail these days anyway, so I hardly get to post anything here.

It doesn’t mean I’m going to forget, though.  Quite the opposite, probably.  Big Smooth has come up in conversation with at least two other lawyers in the last couple of weeks… and not because of his passing.  Like I said last year, legends don’t die.

A month or so after posting my thoughts on his passing somebody asked me about the trial I mentioned.  To make a long story short, it was a DUI trial that looked not-completely-horrible on paper:  There were no field sobriety tests.  There was no breath test.  These are usually good things.  Great things, actually.

There were a lot of other bad facts, though.  Really bad facts.  Like, my client had rear-ended a car.  The car had children… one of whom received medical treatment for minor injuries.

Inside the car was a bottle of vodka. It was open.  It appeared that some of the vodka had been consumed. It was also the 4th of July.

We say that my client refused the field sobriety tests.  The police, on the other hand, testified that my client fell several times prior to completing them and offered to do them but wanted to take a nap first.  The police also say he smelled like alcohol.

He also may or may not have been arrested for DUI in the past. Several times. The jury didn’t know that, though.

On the other hand the officer admit that my client was in an accident, he might have hit his head, and the problems walking and desire to lay in the grass and sleep could very well have been symptoms of head injury. He didn’t know.

The officer also never saw my client driving.  Laying in the grass next to the smashed-up car registered in his family name? Perhaps. Actually driving? No.

Neither did the lady in the accident. She couldn’t identify the driver.

So, the prosecutor takes his best facts- car accident, hurt kid, vodka in car, man smelling like alcohol, falling down during field sobriety tests, asking to take a nap, and that he’s probably coming back from a 4th of July party.  He argues to the jury that my client was driving drunk.  He says it’s obvious.

I do the same.  The only thing that’s obvious is that he might have had a serious head injury.

My client wasn’t so drunk he fell down during the field sobriety tests, rather he refused them. The officer just didn’t like how he refused.  Plus, he needed to nap because he hit is head on the steering wheel and had a concussion.  That’s also why he was having trouble walking.  Did he have something to drink that day? Sure he did. Was he so drunk that it impaired his driving?  It’s the state’s job to prove that… and they haven’t

And then?  Well, then I do what Gracik was laughing about.

In fact, they haven’t even proved that my client was driving.  The officer never saw who was driving the truck, and the lady who was hit can’t identify anybody.

When you stand up to make that closing argument, you must believe what you’re arguing.  You have to take the facts in the case- whatever facts they may be- and put them together in a way that makes sense.  If you don’t buy what you’re about to argue, nobody will. Rule #1 of being a trial attorney is to always say true things. Always tell them what you think is the truth. There are no exceptions.

Here, the prosecutor believed my client’s behavior was a result of being intoxicated- there weren’t any other options.

I believed that it might have been the result of a mistake (the accident) and a head injury.

You both believe what you believe.  So, after closing arguments, when the jury saunters off to deliberate, you both think you’ve got a good shot at winning.  One of you won’t, and he’s going to be disappointed- right or wrong, it’s disappointing.  It’s almost cruel how this system works.

Gracik crushed my spirits before the jury even came back.

“What do you think, Smooth?”

“I think you did good. I like the argument about the head injury- how do they know he didn’t have a bad concussion, right? You asked for too much when you said they can’t even identify your guy, though.”

“You think I’ve got a shot?”

“Oh, hell no. There isn’t anybody who thinks he wasn’t driving that car.”

If Bill hadn’t said that, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to figure that out.  I see lawyers in court with a lot more experience now than I had then who still haven’t.  It’s easy to sit behind a keyboard, with 13 years of practice and thousands of legal arguments of experience since, and see how obvious that is.

It’s a simple idea, really.  If a prosecutor says something is black, a defense attorney argues it’s white.  Suppose the defense attorney also argues that it wasn’t raining outside.  The jury might go back and focus on whether or not it’s raining as opposed to the more important black/white argument.  If they decide you were wrong about it not raining, why should they think you’re correct about it being white? They shouldn’t.

If you leave the discussion about rain out of it, they haven no choice but to focus on the real issue.

That’s not to say I would have won if I hadn’t asked for too much.  After all, what verdict form would you have signed for the guy with open vodka in the car who kept falling down and wanted to take a nap?  The reality is that we only went to trial because the prosecutor wanted to run the trial, and I figured we could get a better sentence from the judge after trial than the prosecutor was offering (which, by the way, we did).

Keeping things straightforward and not arguing extra things to a jury is the only way to go, though.  That was a lesson I learned quicker than most because The Smooth took the time to watch my closing and point it out.  You can’t have enough good friends in this job- especially when you’re just getting going.

That was an important lesson to learn, and I won’t forget it.

I won’t forget Bill Gracik, either.

That dude from Moonshiners doesn’t listen (to me, anyway).

Moonshiners Arrest.JPEG-005ce

I try to be helpful here.  I really do. I know I probably fail.  It’s not for lack of trying, though.

A while back I wrote these riveting tips on what to do once you’ve been arrested.  It was ground breaking stuff.  Earth shattering, even.  I thought lives would be saved.  It felt good to help.

You ever seen that show Moonshiners?  It’s about the brightest in American small businessmen trying to eek out a living in this brutal world.  It’s entertaining.  If you’ve ever seen it, you know some of those guys could use any help they can get.

It appears that one of the “best” of those bright, small businessmen just got arrested.  As you know, I’m not one to hold an arrest against somebody.  I am one to hold mistakes a man makes after arrest against him, though.

So, re-read those tips about what to do once you’ve been arrested.  Then, read this article on the Moonshiner guy who got arrested.  Then look at his mug shot.  Does he look like a guy who was illegally drinking in the Quickie Mart parking lot?   Maybe just a little bit.  What conclusion can we draw from all of this?

Clearly the guy can’t read.


I might be here. I might be there. I might be hiding. You never know.


I know you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been posting much.  I’m sure it’s been keeping you up at night.  I’ll bet that some of you have been so worried that the stress is making it hard for you to function.  It’s horrible, I know.

To you, I offer my sincerest apologies.

It’s not that I haven’t been posting.  To be honest, I have a secret to tell.  I’ve been cheating on you.

It’s not your fault.  You’re great.  Seriously. You’re the best and I wouldn’t ever want you to change.  It’s just that I’ve been contributing to another web page and I didn’t think you were ready to hear about it.

Its name is Excessive Bail.  Excessive Bail is a fairly new deal.  It’s actually a collaboration among several criminal defense attorneys- so it’s not just my stuff.  It’s got some fun stuff, some serious stuff, and some stuff about Walmart hot dogs.  Over there, you can even comment and tell me how nuts I am.

But I still want to be friends with you.  So, I’ll still write stuff here- just not as often.  I’ll use this space for local stuff… like my hatred for certain local police departments or when we make the big-time news.  I’ll use Excessive Bail for the more general types of stuff… like making fun of new lawyers, or how listening to a pimp can help you in traffic court.

I’m sorry I had to break it to you like this.  Please don’t hate me.

It’s so sad.

The subject of one of the most popular posts on here is in the news again.  Back in April you may recall that the McHenry City Police Department had an officer get charged with misconduct stemming from that officer’s purported theft from the department evidence lockup.  I was a bit cranky about the press release put out by the chief of that department:

The fact is that I feel bad for the whole situation.  The life Hojnacki knew is over- whether or not he’s guilty.  If he stole money or didn’t steal money, that’s sad.  The intensity of a criminal arrest for a cop is off-the-meter when compared to a non-cop.  It’s possible to be empathetic without condoning what somebody has done or is accused of doing.  It seems they don’t teach that in Police Chief school.

Well, it’s not a “purported” crime anymore.  According to the NW Herald Mr. Hojnacki has entered admissions to a couple of the charges, with sentencing to follow.  What does the Chief have to say about that?  Lots, I guess.  He’s not going to tell us yet, though:

“I want to speak, but there’s a gag order and I’m respecting that gag order,” he said.

I feel so sad for the Chief.  I’m sad that he has things he wants to say and he can’t.  That must be frustrating.

I’m also sad that he’s Chief of a department that seemingly had no real control over the integrity of its evidence.  I’m sad that it seems anybody could walk into his evidence vault and take whatever they wanted (“Hojnacki was not assigned to the evidence vault and was not an evidence custodian, McHenry Police Chief John Jones has said.”).  I’m sad that, in a moment of weakness, any officer in that department could have compromised the evidence and possibly effected a lot of criminal cases.  It saddens me to think that the blame in that office doesn’t seem to run all the way to the top.

Like I said in the original post, Hojnacki has made a mistake and it has cost him far more than it would a non-police officer.  What has allowing this to happen cost Jones?

Maybe if he hadn’t been bound by the gag order, Jones was going to come out and tell us how he messed up.  How all of this was allowed to happen.  How he’s completely changed the way they keep their evidence.  How anybody who wants to get into that evidence vault has to go through him, or somebody he trusts.  How he bought a mirror and he looked in that mirror and realized the guy in that mirror is no better than anybody else.


Probably not.

Kane County Prosecutor’s DUI Checkpoints…

Man, I think the police are catching on. Looks like the Kane County Sheriff was doing the DUI/Roadblock thing the night before Thanksgiving.  Who would have thought?

According to the Kane County Chronicle, the State’s Attorney’s office was also doing their “no refusal” thing.  That means that if you refuse the breath or blood test, they’re claiming they’re going to get a warrant and force you to submit to chemical testing.  Guess what?  People refused:

Three people initially refused to submit to chemical testing, and two people continued to refuse until they were told by police that a warrant would be obtained. One of those people submitted to chemical testing after a warrant was obtained.

What about that other person?  The one who wouldn’t take the tests even after the warrant was issued?  What happened to him?

The other person continued to refuse to submit to chemical testing, which resulted in an additional charge of felony obstructing justice.

Ouch!  It will be interesting to see where this goes.  Depending on the guy’s background and history, a low-level felony case just may impact his life a lot less than a misdemeanor DUI.  Maybe.  It’s going to be interesting to see if the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office handles this any differently because it’s part of their pet project.

Making it worse.

-Update (12/5/13): A year later and this one still drags on.  The Kane County Chronicle is reporting today a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the deceased man.  Contrary to what was reported (and I wrote about below- nearly a year ago) the lawsuit alleges the deputy did not abandon the pursuit.  While that certainly adds an interesting twist to the story, the point I originally made still holds true. If you’re put in a situation where you might make your legal situation worse, just don’t.

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About that car crash in Campton Hills this weekend…

A Kane County Sheriff’s deputy reportedly saw Liston’s car traveling on Route 38 at Bricher Road. The deputy tried to stop  her but ended the pursuit because she was driving too recklessly, Hoffman said.

The Kane County Chronicle reported on a pretty horrific accident.  In case you didn’t catch the article, here’s the short version:  A lady with a suspended license in a stolen car was going to be pulled over… until she fled.  Reaching speeds of 100 MPH, she ended up causing a chain of traffic accidents.  The result?  She is dead. Another motorist is dead.  Others were injured and taken to the hospital.  According to the Kane County Chronicle, it sounds like a pretty grim scene:

Multiple police and fire departments throughout the county responded to the scene, which included a vehicle on its top, a smoking vehicle and cars sandwiched together, police said.

I’ve offered a lot of opinions in here.  I’ve explained why you probably shouldn’t talk to the police.  I’ve told you what not to do in traffic court.  Probably something I’ve assumed you know but, perhaps, you don’t is the most simple advice possible:  When you’re in a legal bind, help your situation every chance you can.  Before you’re charged, when the police have you at the station, or even after you’re charged, your actions can affect what happens.  Because you’re in a bind for one crime (or two, or three), doing anything that will get you charged with a worse offense is usually a bad idea.

Have a suspended license?  Maybe you stole a car?  I don’t know.  All I know is that killing other people is going to take your case to a whole new level.

I’m not saying the lady in this story was or was not guilty of anything- she managed to kill herself before being hauled into the Kane County courts so we’ll never hear her story.  All I know is that if she hadn’t killed herself, the wake of her destruction in this case was going to make it really bad for her– even if she had a legitimate defense.

Don’t make things worse than they have to be.  Don’t kill people minding their own business.  That’s pretty simple


The Juice

How do you start a letter to O.J. Simpson?

I wasn’t sure either.  So, I opened with “Mr. Simpson,” and went on to apologize that we’d never met and I was sending him seemingly random mail.  Hopefully, he’ll get back to me.

There’s a new project in the works that will be “out there” soon.  It’s going to be fun. Seriously.

Stay tuned.

“Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps.”

If life were Star Wars, Hofmann would be Han Solo

Every once in a while things keep popping up in my life.  I don’t know if it’s for a reason, or not.  All I know is that I don’t like things I can’t get away from.

Over the weekend I decided to hop into the “way back machine” and put the music player on “random.”  On came Public Enemy’s once-popular song “Fight the Power.”  Man, I love that song.

The line from that song that stuck out in my head for more than 20 years is, of course, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps.”  Not for the grammar, though. Probably not for any reason more significant than the way it’s delivered in that song.  It’s still pretty cool.

So, I attack google to see what P.E. has been up to.   I knew they’d released another CD this summer, but it hadn’t clicked with me that it was titled “Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamps.”  This got me to thinking.  What was once just a catchy little line is now starting to make a little sense.  I mean, when I was in High School, I probably hadn’t been alive long enough to have heroes who should be on stamps.  Now I’m a little bit older.

High School was over 20 years ago.  What about all that time having passed?  Has the Post Office put my heroes on stamps now?  Clearly they hadn’t put most of Public Enemy’s heroes on stamps in that time… or the new CD would have a different title.

Sledge Hammer image
Trust me, I know what I’m doing.

So, I search.  Mario Andretti stamp? No.  Bryan Marchment?  No.  Sledge Hammer?  Absolutely not.  Every defense attorney who ever helped keep the government off my back… Gerry Spence, Ron Kuby or Clarence Darrow?  Not a chance.  Walter Payton? No.  Well, yes, actually, but that’s only one of my heroes and still not most of my heroes.

How do I start getting some proper stamps pressed out?

Then it gets weird.  I look at my twitter thing, and the NW Herald wants to hear about heroes.  They want to hear about my heroes.  That’s “hero” for the third time in a couple days. Maybe things do keep popping up for a reason.

This seems to be just the opportunity I need to get my heroes some recognition, right?

Boom.  I’m on it.  There’s a catch, though.  They want “everyday heroes” who live and work in McHenry County.  Andretti, Marchment, Hammer and Payton are out.  The defense attorneys?  Well, they are probably the most worthy, anyway.  It’s just going to have to be somebody local, and not somebody famous.  Maybe somebody who is local who should be famous?

There are a bunch of guys who regularly work in McHenry County who I could have nominated.  I chose Dan Hofmann, though.  Why?  For a couple of reasons.  Mostly I know how hard he works, I know how much he loves this stuff, and he just won that huge case in Rockford.  Plus, if the Herald bothers to call him, I know he’ll be direct, honest, and fun.  Who doesn’t like that?

I also know that there are  bunch of people who will step up and tell the Herald how much better their lives are because of Dan.


Here’s what my submission looked like:

Hofmann is a freedom fighter. Like to print what you want? Like your ability to walk down the street whenever you want, however you want? Like it that the government can’t bust down your door for no reason? Thank Hofmann.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of people who directly owe their freedom to Dan. There are thousands, if not millions more who indirectly owe their ability to be free from restriction to Dan.  Will it help Dan’s cause if I have some of them contact you?

If life were Star Wars, Hofmann would be Han Solo. Know who blows up the Death Star without Han Solo? Nobody… that’s who. Watch the movies again if you don’t believe me (but not the most recent 3, because they were lame).  He may not fly a spaceship, but he still fights the rebel cause.

I know you think I’m joking. I’m not.  The fact that the NW Herald is what it is… the fact that Gus Philpot is what he is… that’s just not because “America is free”.  That’s because America is supposed to be free, and Dan Hofmann is out there every day acting like a “check” on the government when it tries to make America less free.

I love my freedom.  Do you love yours?  I know that you do.  You know who else loves your freedom? Dan does.  He’s an everyday hero.

I don’t see how Dan can’t be one of their “everyday heroes” after that.  So, now I can listen to Public Enemy without the burden of knowing I’ve never done anything to get anybody on any stamps.  I know the local paper isn’t exactly a stamp, but at least I took a little step towards getting somebody recognized for something.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Ah, the joys of becoming a lawyer.

If you spend your days trying to convince a prosecutor that not every charge of battery is a “big deal” you better not be a hypocrite if it happens to you.

That post last week forced me to think about some things.  Not very important things, though.  I thought about the pending Mayan Zombie apocalypse.  I thought about that new Sargento “off the block” shredded cheese (I mean, if it hasn’t always been shredded from the block, what did they shred it from?).  And, I thought more about those new lawyers that are popping up all over Kane and McHenry Counties.

Those poor, poor, poor kids.

One of them recently told me that public defender jobs were highly sought-after by new graduates.  I found this to be funny.  I still think it’s funny.

Hardly anybody goes into law school dreaming of working for the public defender’s office.  When you go to law school, it’s all about rainbows, unicorns, saving the world, and fun, happy things.  I’d say this video sums it up nicely. Awww.  How cute.

Oddly, when I graduated law school, I was the only student in my class I knew of who actively tried to get a public defender job.  When the economy was good and law firms were giving away money, public defender jobs weren’t exactly considered prestigious.  Nevertheless, when you have that criminal defense attorney thing inside you, it’s not all about the money. You go where that thing takes you.

I applied to 4 public defender offices, got interviews with 3 and job offers from two.  That’s not exactly because I graduated at the top of my class, either.  At that time, law school admissions were way down, lawyer salaries were up and nobody wanted to take a low-paying job “working with criminals”.  The one place I interviewed that didn’t give me an offer was the Federal Defender, and I don’t believe I was even licensed to practice in that jurisdiction at the time.

Of course, Kane County was the one office that never got back to me. It’s ok.  I mean, just because I was raised here, graduated from High School here, and went to college nearby doesn’t mean it’s where I wanted to work.  I’m over it. Maybe.

Anyway, I’m betting kids still don’t go into law school dreaming of working for the public defender.  I’d venture to say that the majority of them are making it a “hot” field because of the job security and the economy.  I bet their love for the defense of the indigent forms somewhere in their second year… when the idea of having to pay back student loans gets a little more real.

Those people have no idea what they’re in for.

There aren’t many jobs where you just might get punched in the face on any given morning.  There are fewer where you might get punched and you’re expected to brush it off.  They don’t teach boxing in law school, but they probably should for anybody talking about a career with the public defender.

Everybody in this profession for any length of time knows somebody who has been attacked by their client.  It happens in every county.  It happened not long ago in Kane County.  It’s almost always a defendant in custody.  It happened to me in 2002 in the lockup outside one of the McHenry County Courtrooms… although the guy never got to make physical contact.

You can tell the lawyer in that video isn’t just a public defender for the steady paycheck and job security.  He is a “defense attorney” to the core- he didn’t take it personally, and he’s not really wanting to get caught up as a witness in a criminal case.  This is the reaction a criminal lawyer would expect to see from one of his colleagues.  It may not be right, but it is what it is.  If you spend your days trying to convince a prosecutor that not every charge of battery is a “big deal” you better not be a hypocrite if it happens to you.

I know all you new, fresh lawyers (and about-to-be-lawyers) entered law school with dreams of doing the world good.  You were going to save the whales, preserve the rain forests, or stop the spread of communism.  You were going to do big things and play sold-out shows in large Colosseums.  And now?  Now you’re just hoping to play those sad, old songs in front of a handful of friends and family.

How bad do you really want that public defender job, though?  Are you sure this is what you want to do?  Are you willing to take a punch?