Judge under fire for tossing conviction sent to small claims
QUINCY, Ill. (AP) — A judge in western Illinois who sparked outrage when he threw out the sexual assault conviction of 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.
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.
After originally finding Clinton guilty on one count of criminal sexual assault in October, Adrian threw out the conviction Jan. 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.
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. The Quincy Area Network Against Domestic Abuse, which helps victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, said the 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.”
Clinton’s attorney, Drew Schnack, agreed with the ultimate verdict, saying the prosecution did not prove its case and the evidence was not strong enough to warrant a conviction.