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Misconduct investigation stalled in Carroll County

State says prosecutor’s request to investigate attorney was never received

MOUNT CARROLL – In March 2010, the mother of a child pornography victim went to the Carroll County state’s attorney to report that the attorney’s former assistant had kissed the victim during a social outing.

Rather than take the matter to law enforcement, State’s Attorney Scott Brinkmeier advised the woman to contact the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which deals with attorney licensing issues.

This is according to a letter that Brinkmeier wrote to the attorney general’s office on Dec. 21, 2011, in which he sought an investigation of Hogan. He released the letter this week at the request of Sauk Valley Media.

In a statement, the attorney general’s office said it believed it had never received the request from Brinkmeier.

The facts of the case are not in dispute.

Brinkmeier’s former assistant state’s attorney, Hunter Hogan, admitted to touching the breasts of the victim in a child pornography case that he had prosecuted. The disciplinary committee later determined that Hogan’s actions rose to the level of criminal conduct.

Yet no charges have been filed against the now-disbarred attorney.

Recently, Brinkmeier sent a fax about Hogan to Sauk Valley Media after it published a story about the former prosecutor.

“Due to Mr. Hogan being a former employee, the matter was submitted in 2011 to the Illinois attorney general’s office with a request that they conduct an investigation and determine if any criminal charges were warranted,” Brinkmeier wrote.

The letter was sent to the attention of Richard Schwind, then chief of the criminal enforcement division in the attorney general’s office.

Five months after he received the letter, Schwind became a Cook County associate judge.

After Sauk Valley Media asked the attorney general’s office about the letter, the agency looked into the issue and issued a statement.

“Based on our review of records and in speaking with the personnel in charge, we don’t believe we received this letter,” said the statement from Scott Mulford, an attorney general’s spokesman. “Further, had we received this letter, we would have declined the request because the appropriate entity to seek an investigation is the Illinois State Police.”

The attorney general’s normal practice, Mulford said, is to decline such requests in writing.

“Therefore, we do not believe we received the request in the first place,” he said.

In an interview this week, Brinkmeier said he was “quite frankly shocked” when he found out about the attorney general’s statement. He said he spoke with Schwind by telephone about Hogan, then sent the letter. About a month later, he said, he followed up with Schwind.

Brinkmeier also said he spoke last week with an attorney in the attorney general’s office about the case. That attorney, he said, confirmed that there was a discussion in the office about Hogan.

In an interview, Schwind, the former attorney general’s official, said he had “no independent recollection” of the letter or talking with Brinkmeier about Hogan on the phone. But he said that didn’t mean such contacts didn’t happen. “I just don’t remember it,” he said.

‘Instructed to clean out his office’

Hogan, who was an assistant state’s attorney from 2008 to 2010, writes extensively on his Hunter Thinks blog and his Facebook page. Recently, he said on his blog that he had lived in Cairo, Egypt, since mid-October.

A few weeks after the victim in question turned 17, Hogan, who is in his late 30s, touched her breasts and kissed her. In Illinois, the age of consent for sexual contact is 17, although an adult with authority over a 17-year-old is barred by law from having such relations.

According to Brinkmeier’s letter, on Feb. 17, 2010, Brinkmeier called Hogan into his office to discuss Hogan’s attempts to develop a relationship with a 19-year-old defendant he had prosecuted, which was another instance in which Hogan got in hot water with the disciplinary commission.

“After hearing Mr. Hogan’s recollection of the events and the fact that he did not deny attempting to pursue a relationship with [the defendant], Mr. Hogan was advised he could no longer work in my office,” Brinkmeier’s letter said. “At that time, he was instructed to clean out his office and remove his belongings. Mr. Hogan did so that day and that was the last day he worked in my office as an assistant state’s attorney.”

Hogan chose to use some accumulated vacation time then, Brinkmeier said.

On Feb. 25, 2010, according to the letter, Brinkmeier asked Hogan to resign or be fired. A day later, Hogan submitted a letter of resignation.

Between Feb. 17 and Feb. 25, 2010, Hogan reportedly had the encounter with the 17-year-old.

On March 10, 2010, the child pornography victim’s mother approached Brinkmeier.

“The mother ... informed me that she felt betrayed by Hunter Hogan’s behavior and wanted to know what she could do about the matter,” Brinkmeier said in the letter. “The allegations are especially troubling because they have been made against an individual who was sworn to uphold the law.”

Brinkmeier advised her to contact the ARDC, which she did.

Brinkmeier said the mother mentioned only Hogan’s kissing, not touching, her daughter. He said his review of legal issues about sexual misconduct found nothing about kissing.

He said he was so surprised with the attorney general’s statement this week that he typed up another letter to renew his request for an investigation by the agency. It’s well within the statute of limitations, he said.

Brinkmeier called the situation a tragedy.

Mulford, the attorney general’s spokesman, said his agency doesn’t understand Brinkmeier’s delay, waiting nearly 2 years to send a letter “that we have no record of receiving.”

“He perceived there were some problems here,” Mulford said. “That should have been taken to law enforcement.”

Prof: With underage child, inquiry needed

In the 2012 race for state’s attorney, Brinkmeier’s opponent, Michelle Buckwalter-Schurman, mentioned Hogan’s case during a Republican luncheon. She said Brinkmeier should have sought a special prosecutor to investigate Hogan, according to a story in the Prairie Advocate, a Lanark weekly that is now a sister publication of Sauk Valley Media.

Brinkmeier, however, told the Republicans that he had referred the matter to the attorney general for investigation. 

Steven Beckett, a professor for the University of Illinois law school, said it was insufficient to refer criminal allegations to the attorney disciplinary commission.

“If there is an underage child, there needs to be a criminal investigation,” he said. “It would be better to have someone who is independent.”

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