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Judge asked to toss state theft case

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Rita Crundwell
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Rita Crundwell exits a vehicle in front of the federal courthouse in Rockford on Thursday, Feb. 14. The attorney representing convicted federal felon Rita Crundwell in her state theft case filed a motion asking a judge to toss the case, citing potential double jeopardy.

DIXON – The attorney representing convicted federal felon Rita Crundwell in her state theft case filed a motion Wednesday asking a judge to toss the case, citing potential double jeopardy.

In his motion, Lee County Public Defender Bob Thompson said Crundwell’s plea agreement in her federal wire fraud charge included “acts and dates” also contained in the Lee County indictment.

Although theft and wire fraud are different charges, Crundwell admitted in the federal case to stealing nearly $54 million in city funds “from as early as” Dec. 18, 1990, until April 17, the day she was arrested at Dixon City Hall, Thompson wrote.

The Fifth Amendment has a double jeopardy clause that prohibits the government from prosecuting a person more than once for the same crime, or from imposing more than one sentence for the same crime. Each state has the same provision in its criminal code.

A date to hear the motion likely will be set at Crundwell’s March 4 status hearing.

Thompson declined to comment on the motion.

Crundwell, 60, was sentenced last week to 19 years, 7 months in federal prison. She admitted stealing nearly $54 million in city money to fund her world-renowned quarter horse operation and her lavish lifestyle.

In September, she was indicted in Lee County on 60 counts of theft of government property. The indictment accuses her of stealing more than $11 million between Jan. 19, 2010, and April 16. Each charge is punishable by 6 to 30 years in prison. If convicted, her sentence would run concurrently with her federal sentence.

In his motion, Thompson argues that Illinois criminal code prohibits prosecutors from trying a defendant when the facts necessary to convict have been conclusively determined by a prior prosecution.

Thompson pointed to comments made by U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Pedersen at Crundwell’s sentencing last week, that the acts in the federal case are the same as those in the state case.

“The issue of ultimate fact’, whether the defendant had the intent to defraud and deprive the city of Dixon permanently of its money, has been decided,” Thompson wrote.

City officials have said they want Crundwell to face state prosecution.

Lee County State’s Attorney Anna Sacco-Miller had Mayor Jim Burke get input from city commissioners at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“I’d like to see this thing move full steam ahead,” Burke said at the meeting. Most of the other commissioners echoed that sentiment.

Sacco-Miller said Wednesday that she had not had a chance to review Thompson’s motion.

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