Do We Have a Fool Running For Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office? You Decide!

Posted: September 20, 2012 by freerichardwanke in Local Issues, Prosecutorial Misconduct, The Causes of Wrongful Convictions, the Responsiblility of the Media, Uncategorized
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Local Attorneys Seem to Have Problems Watching What They Say in Public!

Sitting State’s Attorney, Democrat, Joe Bruscato is facing a challenge this November for his office, from Republican, Glen Weber. Now, up to this debate, we were kinda simpathetic to the election plight of Mr. Weber. See, we’ve watched the press splash the news across the area about Weber’s censureship by the IL Supreme Court stemming from a “…May recommendation from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission that Weber be censured for making improper statements to juries in four criminal cases that took place in Winnebago County and Jo Daviess County between 1999 and 2003…” The IL Supreme Court upheld the censure from a complaint filed in 2007, and Weber is now one of 18 out of 91,000 IL state attorneys who have been officially censured for various matters. We thought it somewhat coincidental that Weber’s case just happened to be decided by the IL Supreme Court just in the nick of time to place him in a negative light in the eyes of county voters just when he happens to be challenging Bruscato for office. It just put a bad taste in our mouths…

But now, here Weber goes again, just freshly censored and seemingly happy to do the same thing all over again! We don’t know if Weber has had the chance to review any of the evidence in the Greg Clark murder investigation (as a non-party, he should have no access to the sealed court case evidence), but he appears happy enough to publicly state conclusively that “…We all know who killed Greg, and here we are over 3½ years into this man’s term and no charge…”after the IL Supreme Court decision summary  states of Weber’s conduct that Weber previously “…alluded to matters he did not reasonably believe to be true” and made prejudicial statements during trial…” (RRSTAR articles below) Considering that the conviction in one of Weber’s past four cases was overturned by the IL Appellate Court, in part, because it found that Weber’s “improper remarks” deprived the defendant of a “fair trial”, one would think that Weber by now would be considering any remarks he makes concerning any criminal investigation very carefully and making sure they are only factual. Further, if Weber can’t restrain himself and has to select ANY on-going criminal investigation to talk about with any degree of certainty, why the heck would he make himself a target of ridicule and criticism by talking about an investigation which, after four-and-a-half years has been officially labeled as an “unsolved murder” by the Rockford Police Department?????

So, it is official; we are not backing Glen Weber for the office of Winnebago County State’s Attorney. Glen Weber is not the only local attorney to speak ill-advisedly (in our opinion) of the lack of criminal charges being brought against either Richard Wanke, or Diane Chavez, in connection with the 2008 Greg Clark murder. Attorney Bart Henbest also commented publicly in May 2012, (see article below), but, at least, we can understand why he would feel a need for closure on Clark’s death, considering his position as Clark’s relative. Unfortunately, while it seems that many murder victim families believe that such closure is achieved with a conviction, studies show that that is not always often the case, as the loss suffered continues to pervade their future lives as it happens with inmates wrongfully convicted and released after a long imprisonment.

But we cannot excuse or understand Weber’s impetus to publicly make remarks we feel are ignorant, harmful, and inappropriate concerning the Clark murder investigation. We have to wonder how the RRSTAR can send a reporter to cover the debate who fails to confront a candidate with the question of the appropriateness  of his remarks given the current status of an on-going investigation. Sadly, it appears to us that the RRSTAR again does not perform it’s community duty to question substance but merely likes good “sound bites”. It appears to us that Glen Weber is too willing to discard propriety and to disregard anyone else’s reputation in his eagerness to assume the SA’s office. We hope he is taught a lesson come November 2012, if not  sooner.

Joe Bruscato and Glen Weber square off before their own

By Chris Green
Posted Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:25 PM

LOVES PARK — Incumbent Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato and private practice attorney Glen Weber spoke Wednesday night at a forum at the Forest Hills Country Club as if they were delivering closing arguments to a jury as to why each should be elected the county’s top prosecutor come Nov. 6.

“You do have a clear choice in this election for state’s attorney,” Bruscato said, “You can elect a lawyer and prosecutor or you can elect a prosecutor, an administrator, an advocate, a steward, a mentor and a leader.”

Weber said the choice is between “an experienced trial lawyer and someone who has virtually no experience whatsoever trying serious criminal cases in the courtroom.”

The two spoke before members of the Winnebago County Bar Association. More than 50 people were in attendance.
Unlike a traditional debate, the candidates were each allowed 10 minutes to state their case for being state’s attorney, and the final 10 minutes was reserved for a question and answer period.

Bruscato opened the forum and spoke of the many facets of being a state’s attorney.

“Being a state’s attorney is about being an effective administrator.”

He spoke of his success in managing nearly 80 attorneys and staff members.

“When I began this job, our office prosecuted about 57 jury trials a year. Now we do more than 100.”

He also spoke of reducing the jail population by 10 percent in the last three months.

Weber made the death of a colleague the centerpiece of his argument. It’s been 3½ years since Attorney Gregory Clark was murdered, and his killer has yet to be charged.

“We all know who killed Greg, and here we are over 3½ years into this man’s term and no charge. What about the justice for Greg Clark’s family? This is why I talk and talk and talk about my trial experience to everyone who will listen.”

Clark, 60, was shot multiple times in the back on Feb. 6, 2008, as he cleared snow from his property outside his Oak Forest Drive home.

Asked by a member of the audience if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the case, Bruscato said because the case is still active, “I find it inappropriate to comment on the case.”

Bruscato did note he is the first Winnebago County State’s Attorney since 1985 to prosecute a case. “That is a personnel decision that each state’s attorney must face in Winnebago County,” he said. “It’s a hard job and being an administrator as well certainly takes up enough time, but I thought it was important to do both roles.”

Weber stressed his trial experience in trying 123 felony jury trials, 43 of them first-degree murder cases.

He said: “You can call me stubborn, sure. Hardheaded? Certainly. Too aggressive? Maybe. But each and everyone of you know I will give my heart and soul to make sure that killer is brought to justice.”

Chris Green: 815-987-1241; cgreen@rrstar.com@chrisfgreen

Rockford police website to turn spotlight on unsolved murders

By Chris Green
Posted May 06, 2012 @ 06:25 PM

ROCKFORD — A new feature on the Rockford Police Department’s website, Unsolved Murders, is expected to debut this month.

One unsolved homicide between 2007 and 2011 will be featured on the site —rockfordil.gov/police — each month. Lt. Marc Welsh said the department is purposefully not labeling them as cold cases.

“We want to send the message to the families of the murder victims that the murder of their loved ones is never forgotten,” he said. “Putting this information out is our effort to obtain any new tips to help us solve them.”

Administrators are reviewing the content of the site, which is expected to go live in the coming days. The 2008 fatal shooting of prominent local attorney Gregory Clark is slated to be the first featured on the site.

Welsh said: “It’s a high-profile case, and there’s been no new information on it in the past year.”

Two arrested
Shortly before 2 p.m. Feb. 6, 2008, a passenger in a blue minivan sprang forward and opened fire on Clark, who was clearing snow from the sidewalk around his house at Sentinel Road and Oakforest Drive. The gunman got back into the van, which sped off.

Clark, 60, apparently never saw his killer. He was shot several times in the back.

His wife, Phyllis, found him on the sidewalk. He was taken to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:20 p.m.

Later that day, police arrested two people, housemates Richard E. Wanke, one of Clark’s clients, and Diane Chavez, with whom Wanke was living at the time.

Prosecutors publicly called both of them “people of interest” in the homicide investigation.

In the days after the shooting, police provided prosecutors eyewitness accounts placing Chavez and Wanke and the blue minivan they shared at the scene of the shooting. However, neither has been charged in connection with Clark’s death.

Obstructing justice
On Aug. 14, 2008, Wanke began serving a 14-year prison sentence for unrelated burglary charges. Clark was Wanke’s attorney of record when he was killed.

Winnebago County court records indicate Wanke wanted his burglary conviction reversed based on ineffective assistance of counsel, among other complaints.

Chavez was charged with obstructing justice for lying to police the day of Clark’s death. Police said Chavez told them that Wanke did not live with her and refused to let officers search the residence when they went there looking for Wanke.

Wanke, 50, is serving his sentence at the Jacksonville Correctional Center. His projected parole date is May 7, 2014.

Case solved
Barton Henbest, Clark’s law partner and son-in-law, believes the gunman responsible for Clark’s death is already behind bars, but not for the murder of Clark. Henbest was surprised to learn the case is slated to be featured on the police website as an unsolved murder.

“It’s a solved case,” he said. “It’s just an unprosecuted one.

“In my opinion, it needs to be prosecuted.”

Henbest said his desire for a prosecution is not just based on his 20-year friendship with Clark and the family’s need for closure.

“I know there are detectives in the Rockford Police Department who have put enough information in front of (the Winnebago County state’s attorney’s office), but they have made the decision not to go forward.”

State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato declined to comment other than to say: “It’s an ongoing investigation. I don’t want to compromise the investigation.”

Anyone with information about Clark’s death is asked to call Rockford police, 815-987-5824, or Crime Stoppers, 815-963-7867.

Reach staff writer Chris Green at cgreen@rrstar.com or 815-987-1241.

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