A special prosecutor who twice brought McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi to trial on criminal charges, only to see him swiftly cleared both times, was found not guilty of criminal contempt of court today for his actions in the cases.
But the judge who made the ruling blasted former special prosecutor Thomas McQueen, calling his behavior “repugnant and in many respects” and “unconscionable.”
Judge Joseph McGraw said he couldn’t find McQueen guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because he couldn’t prove that McQueen was solely responsible for withholding evidence from Bianchi’s lawyers that might have helped his defense.
“This should in no way be construed as exoneration or approval of (McQueen’s) behavior,” McGraw said, reading the entirety of his eight-page ruling in a Rockford courtroom today. “The special prosecutor and their investigators abused their office and authority and the tremendous power of the special grand jury to wrongfully prosecute innocent people.”
Bianchi was twice taken to trial in 2011, accused of misusing his public office to do campaign work and of giving leniency to defendants with political ties to his office. In both trials, the same judge, McGraw, found Bianchi not guilty without requiring the state’s attorney’s lawyers to put on a defense.
Despite the victories, Bianchi went on to sue McQueen and the other special prosecutor on the case, Henry “Skip” Tonigan. Tonigan settled the case by agreeing to pay Bianchi $157,000 – most of which was to go back to McHenry County to cover legal costs incurred by the taxpayers – but the civil case against McQueen is still pending.
McQueen declined comment after today’s hearing; Bianchi said he felt vindicated, despite the finding of not guilty against McQueen.
McQueen could have faced six months of jail time if he’d been found in contempt of court in the highly unusual proceedings.