Text messages between disgraced Fox Lake police officer Charles Joseph “Joe” Gliniewicz and his wife will be allowed as evidence in the woman’s trial after a 2nd District Illinois Appellate Court ruling Thursday.
Melodie Gliniewicz’s trial on charges of unlawful use of charitable funds, conspiracy and money laundering tied to a youth explorer program has been tied up in appellate court for about a year. The issue at hand – a series of text messages between the couple – led to a back-and-forth disagreement about whether the messages were inadmissible because of privacy rights sometimes afforded to married couples.
Prosecutors were particularly interested in messages found on Joe Gliniewicz's phone that allegedly referenced "hiding money." Those same messages were missing from 55-year-old Melodie Gliniewicz's phone, according to the ruling. Since Melodie Gliniewicz consented to a police search of her phone, however, the conversations will be allowed as evidence at a future trial, 2nd District Appellate Justice Joseph E. Birkett wrote in the ruling.
“The fact that [the] defendant might not have appreciated the ‘impact of the disclosure’ does not affect her waiver of the privilege,” Birkett wrote.
Reached by phone Friday, Melodie Gliniewicz’s attorney, Donald Morrison, declined to comment on the ruling or whether it affects his plans to take the case to trial. The case previously was set for a July 1, 2019, trial but was delayed pending the appellate court’s ruling.
Morrison could choose to appeal Thursday’s decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, likely setting back matters further.
“We are weighing all of our options,” Morrison said.
Melodie Gliniewicz’s case will return to the Lake County Circuit Court in the meantime. When it does, prosecutors will be ready for trial, Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office spokesman Lee Filas said.
A new trial date had not been set as of Friday.
Joe Gliniewicz was found shot dead Sept. 1, 2015, in Fox Lake. Investigators originally believed the veteran was killed in the line of duty, but it later was revealed that he killed himself and made it appear as if he had been murdered.
The couple had used money donated to the Fox Lake
Police Explorer Post 300 program for their own purposes, investigators said. Specifically, prosecutors allege that Joe Gliniewicz spent $2,455 at Starbucks and Dunkin'; $8,822 at restaurants; $2,515 at the Classic Cinemas Fox Lake Theatre; $7,217 on health clubs, athletic event registration and hormonal supplements; and $2,623 on adult entertainment and dating websites.
Melodie Gliniewicz was indicted on criminal charges in January 2016 and has pleaded not guilty.
During an October 2015 police interview, Melodie Gliniewicz allegedly told police that her husband was “done with Fox Lake” and believed Village Administrator Anne Marrin was “trying to fold the Explorer program,” according to the appellate ruling.
“Early in the interview, [Melodie Gliniewicz] answered questions about the events leading up to Sept. 1, 2015 – the day Joe was found dead from gunshot wounds,” Birkett wrote. “[Melodie Gliniewicz] explained that the night before Joe was found dead, ‘He told me that Anne Marrin was demanding a 100% inventory of all the Explorer stuff. From every patch to every uniform to every item in the building,’ [Melodie Gliniewicz] said.”
She went on to tell investigators that she and Joe Gliniewicz sometimes used the Explorer program credit card, but “always paid that back,” Birkett wrote.
“[Melodie Gliniewicz] explained that they were not ‘embezzling funds’ because they paid it back,” Birkett wrote. “[Melodie Gliniewicz] said that she thought she owed the Explorer program ‘about $1,000.’ ”
Although Melodie Gliniewicz assured officers they would find the same texts on both her and her husband’s phone, investigators discovered nine months of messages that were exclusively on Joe Gliniewicz’s phone, according to the ruling.
Morrison in turn argued that deleting the text messages could be construed as an exertion of Melodie Gliniewicz’s Fifth Amendment rights. Lake County Judge James Booras, however, added that the act also could be considered obstruction of justice.
Still, in May 2017, Booras ruled that the couple’s text messages and emails were privileged, and the case was put on hold as prosecutors fought the decision in the Illinois Appellate Court.
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Ken LaRue came back in May 2018, however, and argued that new evidence proved Melodie Gliniewicz allowed the FBI to search her phone in 2015. The newly obtained signed waiver overrode any marital protections, he said.
Booras refused to go back on his previous ruling and sent the matter back to the appellate court.
In a 21-page decision issued in November 2019, Birkett wrote that Booras was wrong to not reopen the hearing after learning about the signed FBI waiver.
Melodie Gliniewicz still could receive her husband’s survivor pension, and she is actively trying to do so.