Judge: Yes, I can overturn the La Salle County state’s attorney race

No ruling yet on GOP effort to reverse the Nov. 3 outcome

A Grundy County judge said Friday that, yes, he has the authority to overturn the Nov. 3 race for La Salle County state’s attorney — but only under extraordinary circumstances.

Judge Scott M. Belt did not do so Friday. Instead, he sent the Republican effort to reverse the outcome back to the drawing board. This will be the fifth time the La Salle County Republican Central Committee will have amended its complaint.

The next hearing will be conducted virtually Monday, May 17.

Friday, a lawyer for La Salle County Clerk Lori Bongartz asked Belt to throw out the GOP’s petition once and for all, saying Bongartz didn’t commit any fraud.

“Words matter,” Bongartz attorney Matt Krueger said. “What the petition says is flat-out untrue and must be dismissed.”

William Hotopp, attorney for the GOP, said in response there are facts in dispute and Bongartz simply cannot make them go away with a denial.

“(Bongartz) would have us believe,” Hotopp said, “that all you have to do is file an affidavit saying, ‘That’s not true.’ ”

Belt declined to throw out the GOP’s petition in its entirety, but he did rule some of its legal conclusions had to be removed. The next version of the GOP petition cannot contain allegations of fraud or criminal misconduct.

Krueger said he’ll try one more time to get the case dismissed. He advised Belt he’d return with a request for sanctions for the GOP’s unsubstantiated allegations against Bongartz. After the hearing he said sanctions the would include dismissal.

The GOP initially challenged the vote handling in two races; but the portion of the case challenging the win by state Rep. Lance Yednock (D-Ottawa) has been dismissed. All that remains is the challenge over state’s attorney. Martin received 27,206 votes to Donnelly’s 25,111 — a difference of 2,095 votes.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.