Judge dismisses charges against Duebbert after texts reveal accuser embellished what happened

BELLEVILLE – As visiting Judge Michael McHaney dismissed charges against Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert in court on July 6, he appeared as if he was in a hurry to get out of St. Clair County.

McHaney, who presides at the Fourth Judicial Circuit, faulted the proceedings after prosecutor Lorinda Lamken-Finnell stuck by her accusations against Duebbert.

Lamken-Finnell portrayed witness Carlos Rodriguez as a victim who couldn’t face Duebbert.  

“Is he intimidated?” she said. “And would anyone in his shoes be intimidated? Yes.”

Duebbert’s lawyer, Scott Rosenblum of Clayton, Mo., said Rodriguez indicated he would tell jurors his allegations against Duebbert never occurred.

The case against Duebbert unraveled after text messages between Rodriguez’s attorney Alex Enyart of Belleville and Lamken-Finell were made part of the court record in Duebbert’s defense. Before charges were even filed against Duebbert, Enyart wrote to Lamken-Finell that his client had “embellished what happened.”

McHaney said, “This case is over.”

At a press conference outside the courtroom after proceedings concluded, Rosenblum said that Rodriguez had never been cross examined.

“No 12 people here or anywhere else would believe Rodriguez,” Rosenblum said.  

Rosenblum said he would have proved that all of the charges against Duebbert were politically motivated.

Duebbert, a Republican, was elected in 2016, having defeated Democrat chief judge John Baricevic.

In the 18 months since he was sworn in, Duebbert has never presided over a docket. Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson, who took over for Baricevic after his defeat, assigned Duebbert to administrative duties because he had allowed David Fields to live with him temporarily after his release from prison on an aggravated battery conviction.

Then on Dec. 30, 2016, Carl Silas of Belleville was murdered, and Fields charged with the killing. He has been jailed since his arrest and faces trial on July 23.

In April, the Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint against Duebbert based on statements he made to police in the Fields’ investigation.

Gleeson said earlier today that Duebbert would continue on administrative duties until the Illinois Courts Commission completes its investigation of Duebbert on alleged obstruction of justice related to the Fields case. A St. Clair County grand jury had been presented information on the matter last year but never brought charges.

A reporter at the press conference said Gleeson said he didn’t base his decision for keeping Duebbert on administrative duties based on the Rodriguez case, but rather the Fields matter.  

“Judge Gleeson will have to answer that at some other time,” Rosenblum said.

He also said that Gleeson ought to follow the will of the people who elected Duebbert.