By Georgette Braun Staff writer
Posted Mar. 1, 2016 at 8:31 PM Updated at 8:30 AM ROCKFORD —

Public defender Nick Zimmerman asked to withdraw as attorney for Richard E. Wanke Jr., who is charged with murder in the 2008 death of attorney Gregory H. Clark, but Judge Rosemary Collins said today he couldn’t. Collins said Zimmerman’s assertion that there could be a conflict of interest if he were to call a colleague to testify wasn’t at issue. That’s because the colleague’s involvement with Wanke revolved around a separate burglary case against him, Collins said. “There is no conflict,” she said.

Zimmerman is the fourth lawyer for Wanke in the case. Wanke has contended at previous hearings that Winnebago County public defenders could not adequately represent him because of conflicts of interest. Zimmerman continued to defend Wanke in the Winnebago County courtroom today, where he sought to have certain evidence suppressed in the case that will go to trial on May 2.

Clark was fatally shot Feb. 6, 2008, while clearing snow from a sidewalk outside his Rockford home in the 1700 block of Oakforest Drive. Police said a gunman jumped out of a vehicle and shot Clark in the back.

Clark had defended Wanke on a 2006 burglary charge involving a computer, and Wanke was upset with the outcome. That’s what Rockford Police Department officers said Bart Henbest, Clark’s son-in-law and business partner, told them at the time.

Wanke was serving prison time at Stateville Correctional Center and was weeks away from being released when he was charged in 2014 with killing Clark. He has previously said he had nothing to do with Clark’s death.

In Collins’ courtroom, Zimmerman said that Rockford police in 2008 “arrested my client at gunpoint, without a warrant or probable cause.” And he asked that items Wanke had on him when he was detained not be admitted as evidence at trial. Those items included business cards, a driver’s license, keys, a cellphone and a flash drive. The significance of those items in the case was unclear.

Wanke, wearing a lime green Winnebago County Jail jumpsuit, ankle shackles, a ponytail and an audio headset to aid hearing, often leaned closer to Zimmerman and whispered to him as Zimmerman was about to address the court.

Marilyn Hite Ross, chief of the criminal bureau for the Winnebago County state’s attorney office, said there was probable cause for police to detain Wanke. “Probable cause exists when they have articulative facts that led them to believe that a crime had been committed and this defendant committed that crime.”

Sgt. David Lee of the Rockford Police Department testified today that he and other officers were sent to a duplex in the 1100 block of Grant Street to do surveillance within a few hours after Clark was shot. That’s where they saw Wanke shoveling snow. He matched the description witnesses gave of a suspect at the shooting scene: a white male in his 40s or 50s, with glasses and long, straggly hair. A blue minivan with gold rims was parked near Wanke.

Source: Richard Wanke, accused of killing Rockford lawyer Gregory Clark, seeks to suppress evidence – News – Rockford Register Star – Rockford, IL

…AND WHAT WE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS HEARING & ARTICLE:

First off, background about what an IL “Suppression” hearing is and what it is supposed to accomplish

A motion to suppress evidence is an objection over evidence generally presented to court before trial begins. The motion challenges evidence on constitutional grounds. Generally a motion to suppress is based on:
Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure
Fifth Amendment limitations of self-incrimination
Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment safeguards for due process

Generally, the purpose of a suppression hearing is to examine whether or not the police had sufficient probable cause to either arrest, search, or seize persons or property at a specific time.

The US Supreme Court has left probable cause open to interpretation by US courts with such guidance as, …”Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the officers’ knowledge and of which they have reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.” (Brinegar v. U.S.)

A look at the probable cause in a criminal case may be warranted based on the circumstances of the case. In Richard Wanke’s instance, there are indications that the police in February 2008, may have had little more than suspicion that Wanke was involved in Greg Clark’s murder; that is, no forensic evidence or only circumstantial linkages. Richard Wanke was not arrested in 2008, but his bond was revoked and he was jailed. The State is trying to justify the factual basis on why he was imprisoned based on what the police knew at the time they acted against him. If the actions taken in 2008 were not based on sufficient probable cause of his involvement in the murder, then whatever was collected by police in 2008 may not be usable today by the State. Bottom-line, in 2008, the police needed to be able to have reasonably connected Richard Wanke to the murder.

Richard’s case is almost a double situation of probable cause because he was charged with the murder in April 2014, after it went cold in 2010. Cold cases are usually re-opened and charged after the police discover new evidence that links a suspect to the crime. This does not appear to have happened in Richard’s case, so if sufficient probable cause is not found in the actions of 2008, then there may be further issues of legitimacy in his 2014 charges.

Now, will Judge Collins find the police had “probable cause” against Richard Wanke in 2008? She will issue her decision next Monday on March 7, 2016. But, yeah; we anticipate that she will find that the police did have probable cause to act against Richard, and that she will deny defense’s motion to suppress any evidence.

We anticipate this decision based on how she handled and disposed the first motion defense submitted just before the suppression hearing began.

The RRSTAR article above is a garbled account and explanation of what actually took place in the courtroom on March 1, 2016. The RRSTAR reporters have only the limited opportunity while reporting to learn how to interpret courtroom actions and their significance.

Georgette Braun writes: “… Collins said Zimmerman’s assertion that there could be a conflict of interest if he were to call a colleague to testify wasn’t at issue. That’s because the colleague’s involvement with Wanke revolved around a separate burglary case against him, Collins said. “There is no conflict,” she said…”

Well, this is not quite what happened. Derrick Schmidt, one of Richard’s prior Public Defender’s warned Judge Collins during argument over his past motion to withdraw the Public Defender’s office from representing Richard that the issue of conflict-of-interest regarding the Winnebago County’s Public Defender’s office was going to rear it’s ugly head repeatedly through Richard’s case if Judge Collins did not remove the office from the case.

Yesterday, Nick Zimmerman, Richard’s current Public Defender said that he and Robert Simmons, (his co-counsel) were reviewing case materials early Monday morning when they came upon an issue with the way in which Richard’s bond was revoked on February 6, 2008. Basically, Zimmerman maintained that Richard’s bond was illegally revoked because the police and the State agent at the time failed to follow proper procedures when they revoked his bond.

Generally bond is revoked in court. The State presents facts to the judge about why the bond should be revoked; the defense has the opportunity to challenge the reasons, the judge decides if the revocation is merited and then signs an order which is officially recorded in the record by the Circuit Clerks’ office.

None of that happened in Richard’s situation in 2008. On February 6, 2008, a police officer knocked on Judge Truitt’s door at home about 11pm at night; told Judge Truitt god knows what about Richard and the Clark murder; got the judge to sign the revocation order and then the order ended up in the court record much later. Problem is, again, no one knows what information was presented to Judge Truitt to persuade him that Richard was such a danger that his liberty should be revoked, and no one was there on Richard’s behalf to challenge the information presented. It was all done improperly and ex-parte. Plus, at 11pm, the police had already picked up Richard and he was already in their custody, so they had jumped the gun on picking him up.

You see, the police had a choice on February 6, 2008, if they believed that Richard was a danger and needed to be in custody. The police could have gone to a judge earlier that afternoon and obtained an arrest warrant for Richard and then picked him up and arrested him. This is what they do for most people they arrest.  Instead, the police apparently felt that Richard had no legal rights because he was already out on bond, so they could just go and pick him up between 5 – 6 pm.

In February 2008, however, the police did not charge Richard Wanke with the murder of Greg Clark. Instead, they waited till April 2014 to do that. Meantime, in 2008, they held Richard in jail under questionable authority for about 4 months before he was sentenced in his laptop burglary case and sent off to IDOC.

So, Nick Zimmerman maintained to Judge Collins, on March 1, 2016, that the whole issue of how Richard Wanke was seized by the police in 2008, has to be examined because a bond revocation and not an arrest was used to justify holding him and then seizing evidence against him at the time, and he ended up not being charged with anything at the time.

It is a fair issue to consider because without protections, the police can then pick up and detain indefinitely people out on bond without charging them with anything.

Zimmerman’s problem however is that the State agent who acted against Richard on February 6, 2008, is now a public defender of some repute who many people in the Public Defender’s office consult with on a regular basis, including himself. Zimmerman notified Judge Collins that, in order to examine the issue of the bond revocation on Richard’s behalf, he and Simmons had a conflict-of-interest in that they would be divided between their allegiance to Richard and their allegiance to the public defenders office when cross-examining Margie O’Conner; who might also hedge in answering truthfully simply because she was being questioned by colleagues.

Judge Collins, in the morning first heard arguments on both sides; from the defense that the bond revocation was illegal because procedures were not properly followed, and from the State, who claimed that it was legal and justified holding Richard Wanke indefinitely. Collins then adjurned the case upon 1:30 pm for her decision on the issue.

During the noon break, Collins used her time to review first the electronic docket on Richard’s laptop burglary case 06-CF-405. Then she pulled the casefile and reviewed the court transcript for 2/15/08, where a motion by Attorney Brown to reinstate Richard’s bond was heard by Truitt.

Brown complained at that hearing that the State (Margie O’Conner) presented some information as to why Richard’s bond was revoked, but that it was conclusionary information and not the underlying factual basis: for example, that Richard fit the shooter’s description, but the description itself was not presented. Brown complained then that the State was not providing sufficient information for him to be able to sufficiently represent Richard. Also, the procedural manner in which the bond was revoked was not discussed then before Judge Truitt.

Collins also reviewed the 6/11/08 court transcript where attorney Glenn Jazciew refiled the motion for bond and argued that it was due reconsideration since it had been four months since the first motion was argued and Richard’s situation still had not changed in that he still had not been charged. Judge McGraw refused to allow the issue to be reheard at that time.

So, Collins basically, marched back into court yesterday afternoon and said “the bond revocation issue was raised and litigated in 06 CF 405 and we are not going to revisit it. And, because, we don’t need to revisit it, the PD does not need to call Margie O’Conner as witness, so we don’t have a conflict-of-interest situation here. So, lets go on and do the suppression hearing now.

Georgette Braun makes it sound as if Collins found that the issue Zimmerman raised only pertained to Richard’s prior laptop burglary case. It does not, and that is not what Collins said. Collins simply found a way to avoid having to deal with the entire issue and refused to allow it to be considered on March 1, 2016. That it was raised to be considered in an entirely different manner than in 2008, with new facts available to the defense who now knows what it did not know in 2008, that is the flimsy basis of the evidence the police had against Richard in 2008, and how they did not follow procedure is irrelevant to Judge Collins. On March 1, 2016, she is happy to ignore all improprieties that happened in 2008; just to ensure that Richard still remains representing in this murder case by the Public Defender’s office.

So, we hardly find Judge Collins action on March 1, 2016, to be an impartial consideration and ruling on an important issue raised by the defense. She basically heard both sides then went and scouted out support to just toss the issue away. This is hardly the sort of action one hopes for in a judge who is considering the outcome of the remainder of your life.

Judge Collins’s actions and rulings so far in Richard’s case may just be a total waste of all our time and public money.  By continuing to be adamant regarding keeping the public defender’s office on Richard’s case, Judge Collins is setting this case up for the Illinois Appellate Court to just toss the case back to the County several years from now when it ends up reviewing the case. The trouble is that not only does it waste all our time and money, but it means Richard Wanke may be subjected to several years of additional unjustified incarceration while he goes through the process of trial all over again.

How does this appeal to your sense of humanity?

 

 

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