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Court again seals records

Official won’t release time of Stanley hearing

Audrey Stanley
Audrey Stanley

DIXON – For the second time in a month, the Lee County Court has sealed records for someone who has been charged and arrested.

In the latest case, the court has “impounded” documents associated with the case of Audrey E. Stanley, 32, of Dixon, who was arrested Friday on a number of fraud-related charges.

That day, state police faxed a news release on Stanley’s arrest, as it routinely does in such situations. The document indicated that her court date was Monday. It didn’t list a time.

Lee County Circuit Clerk Denise McCaffrey-Ehrmann said she was not allowed to say when the hearing would be.

A state police spokeswoman in Sterling said the state police office in Peoria was handling the case.

A spokeswoman there said questions should be directed to the attorney general’s office.

Assistant Attorney General Robin Murphy, the prosecutor handling the case, said Stanley once worked at the Midland States Bank branch in Oregon. It is not known whether the charges are related to her bank job.

Stanley faces charges of theft, financial fraud, computer fraud, financial exploitation of an elderly person, and wire fraud, according to the state police release.

A call to Midland States Bank for information on Stanley’s employment there was not returned.

Scott Mulford, an attorney general’s spokesman based in Springfield, said Sauk Valley Media knew more about Stanley’s case than he did when SVM first called him for comment Monday morning. SVM first contacted a spokeswoman based in Chicago for information Friday afternoon. Those calls did not elicit further information on the case.

Mulford said Stanley remained in the Lee County Jail on Monday, unable to post 10 percent of the $150,000 bond. 

He said Stanley’s case is one “that our office will be handling in the future.” The attorney general’s office had no further comment on the case, Mulford said. 

Last month, the Lee County Court ordered the sealing of documents for the case of Steven Watts, 56, of Berryville, Ark., who faces a charge of first-degree murder in the death of a man in 1983.

In that case, Associate Judge Jacqueline Ackert ordered the records sealed when she approved Watts’ arrest warrant. Officials said they had sought the sealing order because they didn’t want to alert two other suspects in the case, although Sheriff John Varga – much to prosecutors’ chagrin – issued a news release to Arkansas media about the arrest.

Don Craven, an attorney for the Illinois Press Association, said Illinois has constitutional and statutory presumptions that a court’s sealing orders are supposed to be public record.

Sauk Valley Media sent McCaffrey-Ehrmann a request for copies of those orders that sealed the records. She said the newspaper’s request would be placed in the case files.

Recently, the Chicago Tribune investigated the Cook County Court’s record of sealing files in civil cases. In many of those cases, even the sealing orders themselves were kept secret.

In other states, the Tribune found, the law requires sealing orders be public.

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