State’s attorney justifies absences
Dixon: Judge ‘mistaken’ in comments at hearing
DIXON – Lee County State’s Attorney Henry Dixon has taken a judge to task for comments she made about his courtroom absences.
“This morning, a colleague of mine, in commenting upon your published assertion, told me that ‘it looks like ‘judgitis’ to me,’” Dixon wrote in an Oct. 10 letter to Ogle County Judge Kathleen Kauffmann. “While I would never say that about you, I would say that I believe you are mistaken both in your conclusion and in the way you broadcast your feelings, especially just three weeks before election day.”
In an Oct. 9 hearing, Kauffmann voiced her displeasure that Dixon, a special prosecutor in an Oregon case, had missed several court dates.
“My patience is wearing thin,” she said in open court. “We’re going to give the special prosecutor one more chance. If he misses the next court date, I will dismiss this case for lack of prosecution. If it’s not important enough to be present, it’s not important enough to go forward with.”
The case involves former Oregon City Commissioner James Tegtmeyer, 47, who is charged with misdemeanor theft.
Dixon was appointed special prosecutor at the request of Ogle County State’s Attorney Ben Roe because of a potential conflict of interest involving an Ogle County official.
Dixon’s absences in the case have become an issue in the state’s attorney’s campaign.
In an Oct. 10 letter to the judge, Dixon said his office was short two prosecutors and was dealing with the Byron Adams murder trial at the time he missed the latest hearing.
Dixon, who was not the lead prosecutor in the Adams case, noted that final arguments for that case were made Oct. 9.
He said that once he found out about this scheduling, he tried to reach the judge but was unsuccessful. So he told the Ogle County state’s attorney’s and circuit clerk’s offices about his expected absence. He said both offices assured him they would let the judge know.
For a May 16 hearing, one of Dixon’s assistants, Brian Gerken, didn’t show at a hearing in the Tegtmeyer case. Gerken no longer works in the Lee County state’s attorney’s office, so Dixon said he didn’t know the reason for his subordinate’s absence.
Dixon said he didn’t appear on June 13 because he and the defense attorney in the case, Paul Whitcombe, agreed on a motion to dismiss Tegtmeyer’s other charge, computer tampering, on constitutional grounds. The judge granted that request.
“On that date, I was recovering from a multiple toe amputation surgery that limited my ability to drive – and for that matter, to work,” Dixon said.
He said he also got word that the state attorney general would take over prosecution of the case. That was the reason he missed a July 18 hearing, he said.
Soon after, he said, the AG ended its involvement.
In his letter, Dixon wrote to the judge, “I can only say that you have a view that the misdemeanor theft case before you is more important than a first-degree murder case before Judge [Charles] Beckman.”
He said he believed Judge Kaufmann’s comments were unnecessary because he and Whitcombe soon would present a fair plea agreement to the judge.
In Tuesday’s election, Dixon faces Republican Anna Sacco-Miller. She is already making an issue of Dixon’s absences. In a newspaper advertisement, she states, “Mr. Dixon’s office has failed to appear on a high-profile special prosecution case four times.”
Dixon declined to comment. The judge was unable to comment on a pending matter, a spokeswoman said.
Tegtmeyer, who now lives in Green Bay, Wis., was charged March 20 with accessing a computer at the Shell station in Oregon without the permission of the owner, Johnson Oil, on Dec. 30 and altering a computer program.
He is accused of stealing $380 from the cash machine at the station.
At the time, Tegtmeyer was employed by a company that services ATMs.
The next pretrial hearing is set for Jan. 14.
Go to http://shawurl.com/egl to view Lee County State's Attorney Henry Dixon's Oct. 10 letter to Ogle County Judge Kathleen Kauffmann.