Ex-trainee court security officers testify about inappropriate behavior
By Jim Newton firstname.lastname@example.org | @JimNewton5 January 14, 2014 7:10PM
Updated: February 16, 2014 6:25AM
Two former trainee court security officers whom officials said made inappropriate overtures involving a witness and an alternate juror during the trial of former Gurnee fugitive Sandra Lopez testified about their actions Tuesday afternoon.
The former trainees, who lost their jobs due to the incidents, were called in as court witnesses by Lake County Circuit Court Judge John Phillips as part of the post-trial motion process after the issue came to light.
Christopher Lombardo, defense attorney for Lopez, has filed a motion asking for a new trial, alleging that the incidents may have denied Lopez a fair trial. Following the testimony by the trainees on Tuesday, Lombardo said he needed time to consider whether he would amend his motion based on the testimony that was given.
Phillips said a date of Jan. 27 for status on the motion. A sentencing date for Lopez, convicted of a violent Beach Park home invasion, is still pending and she remains in Lake County Jail without bond.
One of the two trainees testified that he left his phone number in a sack lunch given to the alternate juror on the fourth day of the trial. He acknowledged that he and the juror had been exchanging glances, but said he never spoke to her about the trial. The alternate juror was not part of the final jury that found Lopez guilty.
The second officer testified that prior to the start of the trial, he asked a pending witness — the daughter of defendant Lopez — to give his phone number to a friend of the witness whom he found attractive. He said he never spoke to her about the trial and did not speak to any other witnesses or jurors.
Phillips said he called the former trainees in to testify to ensure the issue was addressed prior to any potential appeals.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office conducted and concluded an investigation into the incidents before the trainees were fired. A report from the investigation has been provided to the court, the prosecution and the defense.
Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Newman has acknowledged that the behavior of the officers was inappropriate, but said nothing in the sheriff’s office 56-page report on the issue uncovered anything that brought the propriety of the trial into question.
Lopez was convicted on three counts of home invasion and two counts of armed robbery by the jury in October, and had been scheduled for sentencing Dec. 18 before the issues involving the security officers came up.
Lopez, who fled the country for El Salvador after being charged in the 1999 home invasion, was found to have inflicted a knife injury to one of the two victims in the case.