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Griping about client’s bond gets attorney contempt order

Cesar Wence Cuevas

Cesar Wence Cuevas

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Updated: April 16, 2013 1:51AM

A Waukegan man facing a felony drug charge played musical courtrooms, going before three Lake County judges in two days.

His case was kicked to more than one judge after his defense attorney was found to be in contempt of court.

Cesar Cuevas Wence, 28, was arrested Nov. 16 for unlawful possession of a controlled substance after Waukegan police found 2.81 grams of cocaine on his person when they responded to a domestic violence charge, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Danielle Pascucci.

Bond was set at $2,000 for the drug charge. While on bond, Wence failed to check in with pretrial bond services twice during the weeks of Jan. 6 and Jan. 27, Pascucci said.

“He is required to check in at least one time (per) week. For those two weeks, he did not have any contact with pretrial and that is a condition of his bond,” Pascucci said.

Based on that, she asked Judge James Booras to increase Wence’s bond Wednesday.

Defense attorney Robert Ritacca of Highland Park said his client had missed his ride and was late to check in with pretrial bond services. Wence was on a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, Ritacca said.

“He was 20 minutes late ... based on that, the judge increased his bond to $75,000. I told the judge that’s ridiculous based on the violations. The judge said I’m holding you in contempt of court,” Ritacca said.

Booras fined Ritacca $500 and found him in contempt of court Wednesday, then he increased Wence’s bond from $75,000 to $150,000, Ritacca said. Ritacca’s fine was increased to $1,000 and he was taken into custody for about half an hour. He was not booked into the jail.

“I was handcuffed, searched and waited for half an hour. Then the judge says I never put you in custody, you volunteered,” Ritacca said.

Pascucci said the court did not order that Ritacca be taken into custody Wednesday.

“(Ritacca) had his voice raised. The court found he was being disrespectful. He was yelling at the court and ... The court asked him to stop several times and he did not,” Pascucci said.

Thursday, the day after Ritacca was found to be in criminal contempt of court, Ritacca and Pascucci appeared before Judge Victoria Rossetti because Ritacca asked for a substitution of judge.

“I have a personal issue in hearing this motion,” Rossetti said and then sent the case to Judge John Phillips, who is supervising judge of the felony division. Wence, Pascucci and Ritacca went before Phillips on Thursday. Phillips denied the substitution of judge request, calling it “moot.”

“Judge Booras has recused himself from (these) proceedings to avoid the appearance of impropriety,” Phillips said.

The case was reassigned to a new judge. Rossetti’s name was randomly selected.

“There is no contempt proceeding. There is no order. Anytime that a judge makes a ruling for contempt, it should be in writing and have a factual basis. This judge did not. We’re asking this judge to appear in this courtroom for what he did to (Wence) and to me,” Ritacca said to Phillips.

Phillips sent the case to Rossetti for further proceedings today, Feb. 15.

Wence is in custody at Lake County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bond.

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