News - McHenry County

Attorney defends anonymous name-calling against former McHenry County clerk, judge candidate

Blog comments made against former McHenry County clerk, judge candidate

McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan inserts a memory card to tabulate votes at the McHenry County Administration Building on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Woodstock.

A Woodstock attorney, on behalf of local blogger and former state representative Cal Skinner, defended anonymous online comments that labeled judicial candidate Mary McClellan as “satanic” and a “whore.”

Lawyer Robert Hanlon argued in a Monday court filing that online references to McClellan as a “whore” might have been in poor taste, but nonetheless were true. Citing a Merriam-Webster definition of the word, Hanlon claimed that McClellan fit the description because she “had a son out of wedlock.”

McClellan, who previously worked as the McHenry County clerk, and announced her bid for judge earlier this year, said the name-calling is nothing more than an intimidation effort.

“Whatever he’s doing here is an intimidation to draw out personal information and shed it into a false light,” McClellan said.

Hanlon’s comment was contained in a response filed to McClellan’s attempts to reveal the identity of an anonymous blog commenter who she said shared privileged information regarding her husband’s workers’ compensation claim.

“I do my talking in court,” Hanlon said. “I anticipate that I’ll have a little bit of fun with this particular lawsuit.”

On Oct. 2, an anonymous commenter with the user name “Nunya” posted on the website McHenry County Blog that McClellan’s husband, Ed Gil, attempted to collect $11,000 in unemployment while he also was receiving workers’ compensation. McClellan has denied the accusation and said information regarding Gil’s claim was privileged information known by only a select few.

Commenters with user names including “Nunya,” “Kitchenmilitia,” “Confederate Air Force” and “Ms. Trumpion” referred to McClellan as “diabolical,” “satanic” and a “whore.” One user referred to McClellan as “Freddie Kruger,” while another alleged the judicial candidate had a “devil tattoo.”

McClellan now is attempting to collect information about who posted those comments. That information includes internet service provider and IP addresses of any of the blog’s anonymous posters. If she’s successful, McClellan plans to use that information to file a defamation lawsuit against those individuals.

Hanlon, however, argued that the comments, including those claiming McClellan is “a crook” and “wicked,” are protected because they are matters of opinion or parody and McClellan, he said, is a public figure.

He also contended that McClellan’s reputation was tarnished long before the comments appeared online, citing 2014 sanctions against McClellan and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, for which she previously worked.

“Even if this court considers the reference to Mary McClellan as being a whore as something so offensive as it could be actionable, given that Mary McClellan had a son (name omitted) out of wedlock and one of the definitions of a ‘whore’ according to Merriam-Webster is a ‘promiscuous or immoral woman,’ ” Hanlon began in his written response. “Thus, under the innocent construction rule ... the statement concerning Mary McClellan as being a whore is not actionable because it is substantially true, but admittedly distasteful.”

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of the word is a person who engages in sexual intercourse for pay.

Hanlon goes on to state in this filing that McClellan’s adult son contacted Hanlon via email and alleged that he was abused as a child while living with Gil and McClellan.

Hanlon did not cite any police reports or attach as exhibits any documents corroborating the allegations of abuse.

McHenry County records further show that neither McClellan nor her husband has been charged with a crime.

“Who else have they attacked to this specificity other than me as a woman, and now they’re willing to go to a personal level and attack my children and my family, and calling me a whore?” McClellan said. “I’m outraged. This is a classic reason why we need women on the bench.”

Days after McClellan filed her petition in McHenry County Circuit Court, she was hit with an order of protection, filed by Lisa Shamhart, the county’s risk management coordinator.

Shamhart alleged in her petition that McClellan threw fake blood at the woman’s door and left a beheaded duck on her porch. It was later revealed during a hearing that the allegations occurred at Shamhart’s daughter’s home and Shamhart never witnessed the alleged acts.

McHenry County Judge Jeffrey Hirsch soon after vacated the protective order and lambasted Shamhart for filing the petition as retaliation.

On Tuesday, McClellan was granted leave to file a more detailed petition in her attempt to reveal the blog commenters’ identities.

The case will be back in court Jan. 14.

Katie Smith

Katie Smith

Katie reported on the crime and courts beat for the Northwest Herald from 2017 through 2021. She began her career with Shaw Media in 2015 at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, where she reported on the courts, city council, the local school board, and business.