Arrest of Kane County prosecutor for DUI shows that DUIs can happen to anyone

Often when people come to consult with me about a DUI arrest, they tell me that it is not representative of the type of person that they are.  Many of my clients are highly accomplished people.  I have represented lawyers, doctors, nurses, police officers, sheriffs and many successful business people.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise to see a Kane County State’s Attorney get arrested for DUI.  In fact, just a few years ago a prominent DuPage County prosecutor lost her life while driving intoxicated.

I post this not to embarrass the prosecutor, but to emphasize how common and universal DUIs are.  While there are certainly some defendants who fit the stereotype of an alcoholic whose life has become unmanageable, most DUIs are committed by first offenders who otherwise live productive lives.

From the Daily Herald (story by Susan Sarkauskas):

A Kane County assistant state’s attorney — recently praised as part of a team that handled a murder trial — has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, according to DuPage County court records.

Kathleen Doyen, 30, was arrested at 12:34 a.m. Aug. 15 in the 600 block of North Avenue (Route 64) by Carol Stream police.

According to court documents, she was charged with DUI; DUI with .08 percent or higher blood-alcohol level; improper lane use; and speeding.

Carol Stream police say she was driving 67 mph in a 45 mph zone and weaving between lanes. She failed an on-the-scene preliminary blood-alcohol test and two field sobriety tests, police said.

At 2:28 a.m. she submitted to a Breathalyzer test, and the blood alcohol content was .165 percent. According to police, Doyen said she had consumed two to three beers and “possibly some mixed drinks” at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

Her driver’s license will be placed on a summary suspension for six months, according to a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office.

Court documents indicated she lived in Chicago, but her driver’s license lists an address near Elgin.

She is due to appear for arraignment at 9 a.m. Sept. 14 at the DuPage County courthouse in Wheaton.

She has worked for Kane County since 2011 and is in the criminal division, according to the state’s attorney’s office. When asked about her status, State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said, “This is a personnel matter,” and he would not comment further.

Doyen was one of three prosecutors McMahon publicly praised for their work earlier this year in the Shadwick King murder trial. The Geneva man was convicted of murdering his wife in 2014.

• Daily Herald staff writer Justin Kmitch contributed to this story.

Maryland Attorney General has lost his “moral compass” when it comes to underage drinking

The Attorney General is the gent in the white shirt holding a cell phone.

The Attorney General is the gent in the white shirt holding a cell phone.

Here is an interesting news story from the East Coast:  it was revealed that the Attorney General of Maryland, Douglas Gansler, was present at an underage party where alcohol was being consumed.  Of course, in this day of cell phone cameras, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, this didn’t remain an unreliable rumor.  Gansler claims that he was only there briefly to talk to his son, who was at the party, about plans for the following day (what, he couldn’t have sent his son a text?).

From the Baltimore Sun:

Gansler, a Democrat who is running for governor, said this week that he stopped by the Delaware beach house to talk briefly with his teenage son and then left. He said he does not remember whether he saw anyone drinking. But even if he had, Gansler said, it was not his responsibility as a parent or a high-ranking law enforcement official to intervene.

“Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party,” Gansler said. “How is that relevant to me? … The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people’s children at beach week in another state? I say no.”

Really, Mr. Gansler?  Here is more of that Baltimore Sun article:

Gansler has publicly advocated against underage drinking, appearing less than a year ago in a video for the Century Council, a nonprofit that works to combat both teen drinking and drunken driving.

“Parents, you’re the leading influence on your teen’s decision not to drink,” Gansler said in a video filmed as part of the organization’s “Ask, Listen, Learn” initiative to persuade parents to talk to middle-school children about drinking. “It’s never too early to talk with your kids about smart ways to say no.”

Century Council’s CEO and president Ralph Blackman, upon learning that Gansler had been at such a party, said, “Let me pick myself up off the floor here.”

I should point out that in our state, Illinois, it is a class A misdemeanor to host a gathering or otherwise allow underage people to consume alcohol.  And that goes up to a Class 4 felony if the alcohol consumption results in injury or death.

Breaking: New Report Raises Questions about Calusinski conviction

Over a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post about why I was deeply troubled by Melissa Calusinki’s murder conviction (and 31 year sentence). She was the day care worker who allegedly picked up and threw a 16 month old boy on his head, causing his death. As I wrote last February, the evidence against her was exceedingly weak and the facts surrounding her “confession” were very troubling (the police interrogated her for 10 hours, she had a 74 IQ and the extent of her confession was to say “yeah” in response to the detective’s narrative of what he thought had happened).

Today comes news that the medical evidence against Calusinski was wrong; and that State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim doesn’t think that the collapse of the case matters:

An expert whose testimony helped convict a woman of the murder of a 16-month-old toddler in her care at a Lincolnshire day care is now admitting he “missed” a pre-existing head injury — a development the woman’s attorneys are arguing should lead to a new trial.

In a surprising revelation, forensic pathologist Eupil Choi said in a sworn affidavit that the boy, Benjamin Kingan, “had suffered an old injury that pre-dated January 14, 2009,” the date of the boy’s death.

The affidavit is expected to be a key part of the legal ammunition that attorneys for Melissa Calusinski will use to try to get her a new trial. Calusinski, who lived in Carpentersville, was convicted of the little boy’s murder and in February 2012 was sentenced to 31 years in prison.

“We believe there is significant new evidence,” said one of Calusinski’s attorneys, Kathleen Zellner. “We are consulting with a number of experts and we are investigating every aspect of the evidence that was used to convict Melissa, including the viability of the medical evidence.”

What’s more, Choi’s reversal is supported by two other doctors who have reviewed the case — the newly elected Lake County coroner and the former Cook County Medical Examiner.

But Calusinski’s attorneys are in for a courtroom fight.

Lake County’s top prosecutor said that even if the new findings of Choi are correct, Calusinski should still be held accountable for Benjamin’s death if her actions, at the now closed Minee Subee in the Park day care center, exacerbated his injury.

Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim, elected to the job in 2012, has worked to restore the reputation of an office beset with several wrongful convictions, a record that has drawn national attention.

But in Calusinski’s case, Nerheim said he reviewed the new findings and believe they simply rehash the defense’s arguments at trial. Nerheim said he has found nothing to give him pause about the guilty verdict.

For Calusinski, who has been behind bars since her arrest in January 2009, the new evidence angered her, then gave her hope.

In an exclusive interview at the Logan Correctional Center in downstate Lincoln, Calusinski, now 26, said she was “shocked” when told about Choi’s new opinion. Choi did not return a message for comment Friday.

“I was very angry,” Calusinski said.

Choi’s reversal came after Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd, who took office in December 2012, reopened Benjamin’s case early this year after speaking with Calusinski’s father and one of her attorneys, Paul DeLuca.

Rudd said he read the trial testimony, reviewed Choi’s findings, looked at the original slides, had new ones made and found the existence of a prior injury.

Rudd then asked former Cook County Medical Examiner Nancy Jones to review the materials. Jones wrote that “at the time of his death, Ben Kingan had a well-developed, organizing sub-dural membrane (an old collection of bleeding on the brain) that was missed by Dr. Choi during his initial postmortem examination.”

Following Jones’ review, Rudd delivered the new findings to Nerheim on May 8, but Nerheim did nothing.

Earlier this year, DeLuca asked Nerheim to put Calusinski’s case before the new board Nerheim formed to re

view cases in which a defendant’s guilt was is in question. Nerheim declined.

Nerheim formed the panel shortly after being elected in 2012, to restore the reputation of the office, which had been tarnished during the final years of Mike Waller’s years as Lake County state’s attorney. Four felony cases — Juan Rivera, Jerry Hobbs, Bennie Starks and James Edwards — had collapsed after DNA evidence suggested each man’s innocence. The men spent about 60 years total behind bars before being exonerated.

But Nerheim saw no reason to reopen Calusinski’s case.

On the day he died, Benjamin went from “emotionally fine to dead,” Nerheim noted. If Benjamin had a pre-existing head injury, he would have had a “logical decrease in functioning over time,” which was not seen, Nerheim said.

Even if there was a pre-existing injury, if Calusinski’s actions did something to exacerbate Benjamin’s injury, she should still be held legally responsible for his death, the prosecutor argued.

With Nerheim’s seeing no reason to act, Rudd asked Choi to look at Jones’ findings. Choi concurred with Jones, adding that “at the time of his death, Benjamin Kingan had suffered from a head injury prior to January 14, 2009, as evidenced by the well-developed, organizing subdural membrane present.”

It was Choi’s original findings at the autopsy that led police to question day care workers about their role in the boy’s death.

I have to admit that I am disturbed that State’s Attorney Nerheim did not refer this case to his review unit. This case was already a classic example of a wrongful conviction. It was supported only by a very questionable confession and questionable medical evidence. Now the medical evidence is thoroughly discredited. Up until this point, I have been very impressed by Mr. Nerheim’s willingness to put aside emotions and politics in order to make sure that each case gets a thorough review. Hopefully, he will reconsider his decision and give this case a second look.

Similarly, Cook County residents should be very concerned about this story in which a State’s Attorney resigned after she was demoted for dropping a case which (she claims) even her bosses agreed was “unprovable.” Apparently, they are of the belief that a case should be prosecuted regardless of the facts, and despite the possibility that an innocent person might be convicted, because the story received media attention and/or Anita Alvarez feels the need to show that she is tough on crime.

Not exactly “The Odd Couple” – the prosecutor and the drug dealer

This story, reported by Steve Schmadeke of the Chicago Tribune, is a little different.  It seems that a young Assistant State’s Attorney in Lake County had a roommate who was running a marijuana operation out of their apartment.  And, he not only was aware of what his roommate was doing, he even helped out on occasion:

His drug-dealing roommate loved baking “marijuana pastries,” a former Lake County prosecutor testified Wednesday, so when the roommate offered him some chemically enhanced batter, he couldn’t refuse.

But Aaron Isaacson, 30, who was forced to resign as a prosecutor in 2009 shortly after his roommate was arrested, testified that he had a “horrible … reaction” to the cannabis-laced batter.

Isaacson testified Wednesday during an attorney disciplinary hearing that he witnessed dozens of drug deals, helped his roommate count and organize drug money, and used marijuana and cocaine while working as a traffic court prosecutor who sometimes handled misdemeanor drug cases in 2009.

“I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” Isaacson said when asked why he didn’t move out. Isaacson was never criminally charged. Instead he agreed to testify against his friend in exchange for immunity.

But he could lose his law license.

Isaacson and his friend, Ryan Yoselowitz, 30, were living in a lavish new Logan Square town house full of high-quality marijuana stored everywhere from a hidden compartment in a sofa to glass “candy jars” stashed next to boxes of macaroni and cheese in the kitchen cupboards, according to testimony Wednesday before an Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission hearing.

The bachelor pad was “without a doubt … the most elaborate, over-the-top place I’ve been to,” testified now-retired Illinois State Police investigative Sgt. Earl Candler, who said he had executed more than 1,000 search warrants in his career.

Candler started laughing as he recounted how Isaacson sweated profusely and denied knowing there were drugs in the house even though the place reeked of marijuana. “It was comical,” he said.

Yoselowitz said in a deposition that Isaacson also sometimes delivered marijuana or picked up drug cash, but Isaacson denied that. The former prosecutor, who was dubbed “Yoda” by friends in the drug trade, also denied searching law enforcement databases to help his roommate.

Isaacson testified that he paid just $800 of the town house’s $2,800 monthly rent himself even though he knew his roommate’s only source of income was from selling drugs. He also testified that he helped Yoselowitz sort drug cash only because they were running late for a social engagement.

“It was driving me nuts because we were running so late,” Isaacson said. “And he said, ‘If you want to get out of here, you have to help me with this money.'”

His supervisors in the Lake County state’s attorney’s office testified that Isaacson lied to them the day after Yoselowitz was arrested in McLean County in central Illinois with 23 pounds of top-grade marijuana. Yoselowitz pleaded guilty and is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Not only has Mr. Isaacson lost his job as a prosecutor, he is facing the prospect of losing his law license.  I wonder if this story is (a) simply an aberration; (b) yet another example of young men lacking maturity and judgment; or (c) an indication of how commonplace marijuana has become to the extent that having a roommate running an operation like this doesn’t seem wrong, even to a prosecutor?

What do you think?