October 05, 2022
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Former Sterling attorney pleads not guilty to second sex assault

MORRISON – A Sterling attorney accused of raping two clients pleaded not guilty today to criminal sexual assault in the second case.

Michael A. Lancaster, 63, of Rock Falls, who has practiced in Sterling nearly 40 years, also earlier this month voluntarily changed the status of his license to retired, which means he cannot practice law unless and until that status changes.

Lancaster is charged in the first case with two counts of criminal sexual assault, punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison, and one count of unlawful restraint, which carries 1 to 3 years. He was arrested Oct. 10.

According to investigators, during a regular office visit, Lancaster “by use of force or threat” confined a 42-year-old woman in his office and forced her to perform oral sex.

In the second case, filed Oct. 29, Lancaster is charged with one count of criminal sexual assault of a 25-year-old woman. She, too, was attacked during a scheduled meeting in his office, between Feb. 18 and 22, investigators said.

Bond was set at $150,000 in each case; Lancaster posted 10 percent, or $30,000. He has a status hearing Feb. 24, and a tentative trial date of May 12 in the first case, for which he has requested a jury.

He is represented by attorneys Jim Mertes and Cristina Buskohl of Sterling and Donovan Robertson of Rock Island.

Because Lancaster works so closely with local law enforcement and court officials, to avoid a conflict of interest, Rock Island Judge Jeffrey O’Connor is presiding and Rock Island County State’s Attorney Dora A. Villarreal is prosecuting.

The Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigations is handling the case.

Lancaster, formerly of Miller & Lancaster P.C., handled divorce, personal injury, civil and criminal defense cases. He’s practiced in Sterling since Nov. 5, 1981.

Paul Whitcombe, a longtime Lee County attorney based in Dixon, recently took over Lancaster’s office at 15 E. Third St. as his second location, and assumed some of his cases.