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McHenry County judge throws out guilty verdict in a child sex abuse case, sets date for new trial

Judge says trial attorney erred, Woodstock man ‘did not receive a fair and impartial trial’

Nathan Rigg

In a rare move, a McHenry County judge threw out a conviction Thursday that he handed down three months earlier and granted a 35-year-old Woodstock man accused of sexually assaulting a child a new trial.

On Feb. 18, Judge Michael Coppedge found Nathan Rigg guilty on two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child younger than age 13, a Class X felony.

Rigg was accused of sexually abusing a 4-year-old child in 2019, according to court records. The case was investigated by the Woodstock Police Department, and a warrant was issued for his arrest in March 2020. Rigg turned himself into Woodstock police that month.

Coppedge presided over the case alone and made the ruling of guilt following a bench trial. Rigg had the choice of having his case heard by a jury or the judge.

On Thursday, Rigg, who had been in custody at the McHenry County Jail since his Feb. 18 conviction, was set to be sentenced. He faced decades in prison.

Instead, Coppedge granted Rigg’s motion asking he reconsider his finding of guilt or allow a new trial, which was filed by Rigg’s new attorney Patrick Campanelli.

Campanelli, who was not Rigg’s trial attorney, listed 21 points on which he argued the convictions should be overturned. He indicated errors he said were made by Rigg’s defense attorney as well as Coppedge.

The errors alleged by Campanelli include that Coppedge improperly allowed in “admissible hearsay” and a prior conviction. Coppedge also “improperly ruled when he failed to recuse himself or put on record that [he] had personally been involved in an earlier proceeding” involving Rigg in domestic violence court.

Rigg’s defense attorney is accused of failing to object to “hearsay statements” and not questioning the disparity in statements made by the child, during the first interview of which she said “no one improperly touched her” and during a subsequent one said she lied the first time.

However, Coppedge said he based his decision on two of the issues raised by Campanelli.

Those were that Rigg’s “trial counsel was ineffective” in not cross-examining one of the witnesses on why she did not tell medical personnel the child had injuries to her private parts on Dec. 22, 2019, two days after the alleged abuse, and “in not presenting evidence” by medical personnel who examined the child later that night in a second hospital that they found “no redness, no bruising, no discoloration and no drainage.”

“The defendant did not receive a fair and impartial trial as guaranteed to him under ... the Constitution of the state of Illinois and under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States,” Campanelli wrote in his decision.

His decision Thursday drew immediate applause from about 17 of Rigg’s supporters present in the courtroom, to which Coppedge quickly yelled, “Quiet.”

The afternoon hearing began with Coppedge chastising Campanelli for filing 12 letters in support of Rigg’s innocence, saying it was “wholly inappropriate” and that he would not consider them in his ruling.

Rigg was released from the McHenry County Jail Thursday afternoon, the jail log showed. A pre-trial conference date was set for Aug. 11, and a new jury trial date set for Aug. 15.

Calls and emails to Campanelli were not returned Thursday afternoon. Assistant State’s Attorney Ashur Youash declined to comment after the hearing.