A judge in western Illinois who sparked outrage when heof an 18-year-old man, saying the 148 days the man spent in jail was punishment enough, is no longer presiding over a criminal court docket.
An administrative order filed Thursday by Chief Judge Frank McCartney of the Eighth Judicial Circuit assigned Adams County Judge Robert Adrian to small claims, legal matters and probate dockets and other civil cases, effective immediately, the (Quincy) Herald-Whig reported.
“We think it’s a step in the right direction” the mother of the 16-year-old victim in the case told CBS News on Friday, adding, “We want the verdict changed, reversed.”
Adrian had presided over a three-day bench trial in which Drew Clinton was accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at a graduation party in May.
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After originally finding Clinton guilty on one count of criminal sexual assault in October, Adrian threw out the conviction January 3 when Clinton appeared for sentencing, and said he would not impose the mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison.
“Mr. Clinton has served almost five months in the county jail, 148 days,” Adrian said, according to the court transcript of the hearing posted online by local media. “For what happened in this case, that is plenty of punishment. That would be a just sentence.”
But Adrian said if he were to rule that the sentencing statute he was bound to follow was unconstitutional, his decision would be overturned and Clinton would be ordered to prison. In order to avoid an appeal he believed would be successful, Adrian said what he could do was determine that prosecutors had failed to “prove their case” and dismiss the sexual assault charge.
Clinton’s attorney, Drew Schnack, agreed with the judge’s action, saying the prosecution did not prove its case and the evidence was not strong enough to warrant a conviction.
The prosecutor in the case, Anita Rodriguez, said she had never in her 40-year career seen anything like Adrian’s ruling, and worried how it might affect the victim.
During the trial, the judge heard evidence that the girl had told police she’d attended the party, where she drank alcohol and swam in a pool in her underwear before she eventually passed out. She said she woke up to a pillow pushed on her face and Clinton sexually assaulting her.
“The judge blaming my daughter’s decisions was a disgusting display,” the girl’s mother told CBS News, and she praised her for speaking up about what happened.
“I can’t imagine myself at 16 standing up and doing this. That would be so hard. I applaud her for doing this and being so strong and fighting her fight.”
The Quincy Area Network Against Domestic Abuse, which helps victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, said the judge’s ruling sends a dangerous message.
On Wednesday, Adrian, apparently angered by the criticism, told another prosecutor appearing before him in an unrelated case to leave his courtroom because the prosecutor had “liked” a comment on Facebook that was critical of the judge.
“I can’t be fair with you,” Adrian told the Adams County prosecutor, the Herald-Whig reported. “Get out.”
On Thursday, Adams County State Attorney Gary L. Farha released a statement, saying “there have been multiple questions about the judge’s actions in this case and in removing an attorney from the courtroom for a ‘like’ of a social media post.”
Farha said his office would have no further comment about the judge’s situation.
“The Adams County State’s Attorney’s office is not, nor should it be, the focus of this story,” Farha said. “Rather, the focus and attention should remain on a 16 year old girl enduring a trauma beyond what should be required of anyone and a system that traumatized her and victimized her again. She did nothing to warrant this attack. She is deserving of our support. She is worthy of our respect.”
Marty Lebel contributed reporting.