By Ginny Skweres
Zion-Benton News staff
Former Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd was inducted on five counts of Class 3 Felony perjury on Feb. 15 and a $150,000 was issued for his arrest. He turned himself in along with his attorney, Jed Stone, the following day.
The charges come from the signatures on nominating petitions circulated when he was running for coroner in the Democratic general primary in November 2015. Each page of signatures must be signed by, and notarized for, the person who collected the signatures. While it is legal for others to collect signatures for a candidate, it must be signed by that individual. In this race, it was Dr. Rudd who signed the petitions. By doing that, he committed perjury because by his signature he stated: 'the signatures on this sheet were signed in my presence...and are genuine.'
However, the petitions were challenged by citizens who brought it to the attention of the State's Attorney's Office saying there were issues, and an investigation was begun. Even though Rudd had already withdrawn from the Democratic primary election, the alleged perjury had taken place and still applied. He had then planned to run as an independent candidate, but was not allowed to do that in the same election he had run as a Democrat. He ran as a write-in candidate, but lost.
Potential bias comes from two Lake County cases that Rudd was involved in. The first was the death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz. Rudd said he thought the death was a suicide before the investigating task force agreed with that, thereby embarrassing them.
The second case was the murder conviction of Melissa Calusinski charged with the death of a 16-month -old boy in day care in 2009. Rudd questioned the autopsy, done before his election, and changed the cause of death from homicide to undetermined. A new trial made no changes for the defendant.
The one-year investigation was done by Lake County Sheriff’s Office detectives and Office of Professional Standards. Investigators reviewed thousands if documents and interviewed a number
To guarantee there would be no bias in the case, the county brought in Brian Towne, a special prosecutor from the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor's Office. “I'm here because I'm not a political person. I have no ties to Lake County,” Towne said.
Towne said his office had asked for five felony charges because of the importance of the electoral process. “We live in an environment where elections are strongly contested and strict scrutiny is needed to secure the electoral process,” he said. “That’s why I’m here as a special prosecutor. This was a re-election campaign and he’s been through this process before.” Each charge could bring a sentence of 2 to 5 years, but is also probational, he said.
When asked if these charges were in retaliation against Rudd, Det. Sgt. Chris Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said absolutely not.
“Today has nothing to do with anything political,” Covelli said. “That's why the special prosecutor was brought in. It is not against the law to ask others to circulate a petition, but the collector has to sign and notarize the pages.”
While Towne said he was restricted in what he could say because this is an ongoing investigation, Undersheriff Raymond Rose said he didn't have those same restrictions. The ongoing investigation has to do with the signatures themselves, and involves people who said they had not signed the petition, in spite of their name being on the petition.
Undersheriff Rose also said at least one of the signatures allegedly came from someone who had died 10 years earlier.
Rose also said there are other people being investigated, including current and former employees of the Coroner's Office.