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Sen. Schmidt not guilty of criminal damage, trespassing

Illinois State Senator 31st District Suzi Schmidt Lake Villis interviewed by CBS televisioutside Lake County Courthouse Waukegan with her attorney

Illinois State Senator 31st District Suzi Schmidt of Lake Villa is interviewed by CBS television outside the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan with her attorney Charles Schneider after being cleared of two misdemeanor charges. Schmidt was charged with criminal damage to property and trespassing. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 12, 2012 11:50AM

“Reasonable suspicion” that state Sen. Suzi Schmidt damaged her neighbor’s property was not enough to convict her of criminal misdemeanor, a Lake County judge ruled Wednesday.

Further evidence that Schmidt was “unwelcome” at her neighbor’s property in unincorporated Lake Villa was not enough to convict her of trespassing, either.

Lake County Circuit Court Associate Judge George Strickland presided over her bench trial, finding the Republican lawmaker and former Lake County Board chair not guilty of criminal damage to property and trespassing at the conclusion of the two-and-a-half-hour trial.

“I believe reasonable suspicion existed to believe she damaged the feed bag. I am not deciding this case on reasonable suspicion,” Strickland said.

Assistant State’s Attorneys Don Tyer and Matthew Goodstein tried to prove Schmidt cut a dime-sized hole in bags of feed and trespassed on the property of her neighbors, Julie and Kurt Kunde, on June 2.

These are the same two neighbors that obtained an order of protection against Schmidt, barring her from getting within 500 feet of their home. That order was sought after the alleged June 2 incident. Orders of protection are civil proceedings separate from criminal proceedings. The order of protection still stands.

Schmidt is due back in court Nov. 2 on the order of protection case.

Her neighbors testified Wednesday that they felt harassed by Schmidt.

“We told (Schmidt) that we didn’t want to see her. I asked that we be left alone on several prior occasions,” Julie Kunde testified.

The harassment allegations had to do with a concern that Julie was having a possible relationship of a physical nature with Schmidt’s husband, Julie admitted under cross-examination by Schmidt’s attorney, Charles Schneider.

Kurt Kunde testified that he did not answer the door when Schmidt knocked. He testified that a “no trespassing” sign was displayed on his property. He said he watched Schmidt cut across his property to get to the lake that was between their properties. He also said he had left two 50-pound bags of feed at the end of his driveway before Schmidt popped over unannounced.

Kurt recorded Schmidt walking past the feed bags and bending over them with his iPhone. That video was played during the trial. He testified that the bags had holes in them after Schmidt left. He also said he was able to use the contents of the feed bags for his chickens and dog.

Schmidt took the stand and explained that she was looking for her ladder that day so some college students could clean her gutters. Under oath, she denied damaging the feed bags in any way. She also testified that she did not see a trespassing sign on the property when she visited June 2.

Schmidt admitted to thinking that evidence existed that her husband had an affair with Julie.

The alleged affair was important because it established motive, Strickland said.

Schmidt said it was “very sad” that things between neighbors had escalated to the point it did after the trial was over.

“I’m happy we had time in court. I had no doubt (of the outcome),” Schmidt said after the judge’s verdict.

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