Bomb Threats at the Kane County Courthouses: Probably a Bad Idea

Earlier this week somebody, apparently, phoned in a couple of bomb threats to the Kane County Clerk’s office.  As a result, they closed the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles, the Kane County Branch Court that’s a mile away and the Elgin Branch Court. I know I’m going out on a limb here, but this bomb threat was probably a bad idea. Maybe even the worst idea of the week.

The Sheriff in Kane County is like many of your local lawmen across the country- well trained in responding and dealing to these sorts of threats. So, he kicked all the lawyers out of the judicial center, closed it for a couple hours, and then re-opened the courthouses and got back to business.  It was over quickly.

For everybody except the people making the threats, anyway.  See, these bomb threats are felonies- serious felonies.  Felonies are generally bad things to try to squeeze into your busy week.  Some are worse than others, though.  This would fall into that category.

I know I didn’t have to tell you that, though.  You remember 9/11, and you know that anything that has anything to do with mentioning bombs isn’t about bombs any more- it’s about terrorTerror equals extra-bad punishment.

That’s not really the worst part of this bad idea, though.  The worst part is that the alleged bomb-threat maker called the threats in to the clerk’s office.  According to the Kane County Chronicle:

Two threatening phone calls Wednesday morning prompted the evacuation of the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles Township, the Kane County Branch Court in St. Charles and the Elgin Branch Court in Elgin, Gengler said. He noted other court buildings were checked as well.

Sheriff Pat Perez said the calls came in about 9:40 a.m. A voicemail message was left at the Kane County Circuit Clerk’s Office, which shares a building with the Kane County Branch Court, he said.

The message was “a lot of people in Kane County are going to die today,” Perez said.

QuadComm – a dispatcher for Dundee, Carpentersville and Algonquin – relayed a second call to KaneComm, Perez said. That caller said four bombs were planted at the courthouse, Perez said, noting officials took that to mean the Kane County Judicial Center.

Authorities have identified a person of interest for both calls, Perez said, noting they are different people.

I’m no Magnum P.I. but I know exactly how the authorities found these two “persons of interest.”  They looked around for the a rock large enough for two people to hide under.  That’s the only place anybody could possibly be to have no idea what’s been going on with law enforcement and phones.  And by that, of course, I’m referring things like the government’s ability to track your cell phone even when it’s off, and the fact that AT&T is fine turning over all of your phone data- even if it was from over twenty years ago.  Who thinks they can phone in bomb threats anywhere and not get nabbed quickly, any more?  Only guys under rocks.

If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to worry about, right?  I don’t know about that, but I know that if you’re phoning in bomb threats to the St. Charles courthouse- or anywhere else- you do have something to hide.

I guess if I could give you people one piece of advice from all of this it’s that you shouldn’t ever make bomb threats– doubly so if you’re going to do it over the phone. It never ends well.

The Geneva Police Crash Jenny McCarthy’s Party.

You knew Jenny McCarthy lived in Geneva, right?  If you didn’t (and you should have) you know now.  She’s been around a while.  She even posted some Swedish Days pictures on twitter earlier this year.

Now she’s been associated with some of the cities biggest scofflaws.  How do I know that?  There’s not exactly a lot of crime in Geneva. But, it seems that she had a party the other night and a lot of her fancy California guests got busted.  From the Kane County Chronicle:

GENEVA – A night out with Hollywood stars at a Jenny McCarthy charity event ended with tickets for public intoxication for some outside a nightspot in Geneva, records show.

McCarthy’s event, which took place Aug. 24 at the Hotel Baker in St. Charles, raised money for Bridges Montessori Academy in St. Charles. Among those cited were actors and dancers.

Then, at about 12:30 a.m., Aug. 25, 30 to 40 guests came with McCarthy to EvenFlow Music and Spirits, 302 W. State St., Geneva, according to Michael Knuth, who, along with Nicholas Mercadante, owns the bar, dinner and live music venue.

“It was a very nice night,” Knuth said. “Jenny invited her guests from Baker Hotel. She was very nice and enjoyed music and spirits.”
Knuth said the last call for drinks was 1:50 a.m. The guests did not drink any alcoholic beverages in that time, he said, because it’s against the city’s liquor code to serve alcohol between 2 and 6 a.m.
“They were not here at 5 a.m.; they were outside waiting for a cab,” Knuth said. “I don’t know how long they were waiting. Who knows where they went or what they did, but as for me and my bar, they were not drinking.”

Oddly enough, the police reports seem to give a different version of events:

According to reports, Joanne McCarthy told police they arrived at EvenFlow at 1:45 a.m. for an after-hours party and they drank alcoholic beverages, up until they went outside, right before police arrived at 5:45 a.m.
Also according to reports, Monaco was belligerent to officers at times, and “repeatedly stated she was a celebrity on the television shows ‘General Hospital’ and ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ “
The report states that Monaco’s demeanor changed when police advised her of the consequences of of her behavior.
Gault, a server at EvenFlow, told police she drank alcohol herself as well as served it to the group after the business closed.
According to police reports, Mercadante told police he admitted serving alcohol to the group until their departure at 5:45 a.m. because he wanted to “accommodate some ‘famous’ people and made a poor choice for his business.”

Uh, oh.

That last version of events tells me a couple of things.  First, EvenFlow could be in a lot of trouble.  Whatever good benefit they may have received from being the place that Jenny McCarthy parties at might very well get wiped out by a liquor license suspension.  Second, people need to do a better job of reading what I write when it comes to dealing with the police.  Your friends (or the people you think are your friends) will always rat you out- just ask Lance Armstrong.

The Algonquin Police “Get It” And They’re Not Even “Triple Crown” Accredited

Remember back a few weeks when I laughed at the McHenry County Sheriff’s Police for having gained “triple crown” accreditation?  The gist of my mockery was that the MCSP were in the newspaper talking about how they had received the “Ivy League” of police certifications.  Meanwhile, another department that was part of this “elite” club had recently killed a man with Down’s Syndrome at a movie theater because he was having a bit of an episode and wouldn’t leave.

Of course the  “Ivy Leave” of police accreditation pulled it’s certification of that department did absolutely nothing because, well, there is really no correlation between killing people who shouldn’t die and patting each other on the back.

Then there was that 95 year old Park Forest man who the police killed. He was about to be involuntarily commit and wasn’t thinking right.  They used the taser on him. And, as things tend to go with the frail, a taser that wouldn’t have killed you (but sometimes actually might) did kill him.

I’m not saying that the incident with the man with Down’s Syndrome or the crabby 95 year old man were easy incidents to deal with.  Underneath the sarcastic babbling in my posts on those, though, was the idea that modern policing models really aren’t well designed to deal with “the frail.”  There’s too much, “Respect my authority” and not enough, “If we wait another half hour, crabby grandpa might calm down.”

So, I was happy to read Joseph Bustosarticle in the Northwest Herald this morning.  It seems that the Algonquin Police Department, who is not “triple crown” accredited, is bringing on additional resources to help with encounters with people who may have mental health issues. In part, it notes:

ALGONQUIN – In order to help increase knowledge when dealing with mental health situations, the Algonquin Police Department and the McHenry County Crisis Program have started a new collaborative effort.

The two entities have partnered with each other to provide reciprocal support for when it comes to encountering people who have potential mental health issues.

The crisis program is run by Centegra Health Systems.

Under the partnership, Centegra will provide police officers with “knowledge, training and resources to deal with the potential danger and crises when dealing with the mentally ill,” Police Chief Russell Laine said in a news release.

“It will also help foster the alliance necessary between law enforcement and mental health agencies to provide much needed services to our community,” Laine added.

I suppose I could use this to point out that, maybe, when I wrote about how poorly many departments handle encounters with the mentally ill and you thought I was just taking cheap shots at the police, that I was actually speaking the truth. Otherwise Algonquin wouldn’t need to do this, right?

I won’t do that. I’ll just thank the APD.  I’m genuinely impressed and hope more departments follow in their footsteps.

I will, however, point out again that this shows how silly police accreditation can be, and how you don’t have to be among the “Ivy League” to be good to the people in your jurisdiction.

Drinking and driving could cost you your license. Unless you’re underage… then you don’t need to be driving.

You know that party that all the underage high-school kids were at?  The one that got busted by the police and a bunch of kids got charged with underage drinking?  Maybe you don’t know the specific party I’m talking about, but you know what I’m talking about- it happens all the time.  You read about it in the paper.  With summer in full swing right now, you can’t flip through the Kane County Chronicle without seeing another similar story:

Fifteen teens, 5 juveniles charged with drinking in Batavia

BATAVIA – Fifteen teenagers and five juveniles were charged with underage drinking after police were called at 12:13 a.m. Wednesday to the 1100 block of Woodland Hills Road for a complaint of an unlawful residential gathering…

I read about this stuff in the paper, too. Unfortunately, I see the other side of it as well– the side where all these kids walk into court, with disappointed parents in tow, and plead guilty.  Because, well, when kids do something wrong parents are there to tell them to accept responsibility and “do the right thing.”  Of course, what a lot of parents don’t know is that they’re walking their kids into a driver’s license suspension.

It doesn’t matter if the kids and alcohol are sitting on a swing set in a part in Geneva, in a private basement in St. Charles, or at an “unlawful residential gathering in Batavia.”  They don’t have to be driving. They don’t even have to be near a car.  They can have their license suspended if they’re found guilty- even if they get supervision.

The judge doesn’t have to tell them that, either.  Some judges do- others don’t.  Many of the families find out about the suspensions when they get a letter from the Secretary of State’s Office.

It’s not uncommon to see them running back to court, though.  It’s one thing to make a kid do some community service or pay a fine. It’s another to keep him from getting to work or helping his parents by picking up the siblings.  For some parents (even the most well meaning parents who wanted their kid to “do the right thing”) the loss of a license is a much of a burden on the family as it is on the kid.

So, they end up back in court on a motion to vacate the initial plea of guilty.  Sometimes they get that done in the required 30 days.  Sometimes they don’t.

How’s that turn out?  It can turn out a lot of ways.  Sometimes it’s all a waste of time.  Sometimes they can get the charge amended.

So, what’s the point?  The point is this: I’m not shy about telling people they don’t need a lawyer for the small stuff.  When it comes to underage possession or underage consumption of alcohol, though, it’s best to at least call and talk to a lawyer.  You really ought to know what you’re getting into before you get into it.   You should also know if there’s some way to avoid consequences you might not even know about.  Hopefully these kids in Batavia will figure that out before it’s too late.

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.