Perjury charges filed against former Lake County Coroner, Dr. Thomas Rudd were dropped Wednesday. 14.
Rudd—indicted on charges of perjury relating to his signing of election petitions without collection of signatures himself—plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of ignoring election law. Ramifications for Rudd’s compliance to the plea deal barred him from employment by any form of government—including running for public office—for 5 years. In effect, owing to Rudd firstly having to serve 2 years of conditional discharge, the former Coroner will not be eligible for any government related employment for a further 7 years. Primary elections scheduled for 2020 and 2024 would still see Rudd barred from nomination.
Dr. Thomas Rudd was appointed Lake County Coroner in 2012, but not after failed attempts, and an early retirement—taken aged 60—to look after his terminally ill mother for the final 4 years of her life. It was during this time period that Rudd took issue with the then coroner of Lake County, and consequently, County Officials.
During his tenure as County Coroner, Rudd notably gained attention for cases involving Charles Gliniewicz and Melissa Calusinski. Gliniewicz, a lieutenant for the Fox Lake Police Department in Illinois, was at first believed to have been murdered at the hands of 3 unknown assailants. 2 months down the line, and work by Rudd’s Coroner’s Office, and that by law enforcement, concluded the murder to be, death-by-suicide.
Gliniewicz—a veteran of 30 years— had been embezzling money from a mentoring scheme he helped run, set up by Fox Lake Police for young children hoping to become LEO’s of the future. Gliniewicz had subsequently been viewed as something of a hero for his previous service in the armed forces, and for his continuing service in the police force.
His funeral was attended by thousands. The money he embezelled and laundered ran into tens-of-thousands.
Calusinski—sentenced to 31 years imprisonment for the 2009 murder of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan— was offered hope when an Evidentiary Hearing was granted in part to findings made by Rudd. In the summer of 2015, Rudd aired his opinion of the Calusinski case in no uncertain terms, stating that “Melissa needs to be released and the State’s Attorney needs to do his duty.” Rudd’s conclusions, backed by examination of histology slides, and legible x-rays—not witnessed at trial—led to, then State Pathologist, Eupil Choi’s admission via affidavit, that he gave inaccurate testimony to Calusinski’s jury.
Rudd’s assertions that no skull fracture was present in the legible x-rays of Benjamin Kingan’s skull flew in the face of testimony given by experts used by the state at Calusinski’s trial. Perhaps of even greater significance, was Rudd’s belief that Kingan had suffered a chronic subdural hematoma—a belief that Choi accepted within his affidavit—and that a previous injury, occurring some months prior was responsible for Kingan’s death.
Rudd’s punishment—for what he claimed to be a “clerical error”—removes any potential employment at a governmental level that he may have wished to apply to, for years. Rudd’s personal aspirations aside, his barring neglects the public of a man whose agenda has always been to find the truth.
Rudd’s willingness to go head-to-head with the state—Lake County and Fox County, specifically—and not just tow- the-line, turned a case of apparent election law, in to one of criminal law.
Once Rudd was made aware of possible indiscretions relating to the signing of election petitions, he immediately withdrew his candidacy. Charges had yet to be filed against him. That the state spent more than 2 years pursuing felony charges against the former coroner offers insights in to their thinking. Truth comes at a cost.
The drawn-out and protracted nature of ‘having one’s day in court,’ inevitably took its toll on a man who sought justice above conforming with an employers narrative. Along with Rudd’s barring from governmental employment, he was struck with fines amounting to $10,000. This, added to legal fees already incurred over 2 years of fighting perjury charges, no doubt led to the plea deal being agreed.
Rudd aside, the real losers here are the public for whom he served. Plea deals have become an epidemic throughout the US. While Rudd was able to post bond, many others are unable. Agreeing to lesser charges in the form of a plea deal has become the norm for defendants trading their innocence for lessened jail time. For anybody—on similar charges—without the means to post bond, they would have already spent more than 2 years in jail by the time Rudd’s deal was agreed to by both parties.
In Dr. Thomas Rudd, the citizens of Lake County had a government employee who sought the truth, and with that truth, justice should have been tenable. “I’m saddened the state spent so much time and money on this for an error made on a clerical form.” Rudd offered after his plea deal had been approved.
Legally Rudd was charged with ignoring election law. Ignoring—suggesting that Rudd knowingly flaunted that law. Yet for a man proven to be driven by truth, it would appear that Rudd finally had to trade his innocence due to factors not related to justice.
Rudd’s crime was not one of either “clerical error” or “ignoring election law.” Rudd’s crime was telling the State Attorney “to do his duty.”
Sadly, duty to Dr. Thomas Rudd and certain State Attorneys mean very different things.
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