Will County prosecutors drop 2012 murder-for-hire case against ex-attorney

Robert Gold-Smith

Prosecutors dropped a 2012 murder-for-hire case against a former attorney who called the charges against him a “true miscarriage of justice.”

Prosecutors had initially won the case against Robert Gold-Smith, 60, in 2016 but he successfully appealed his conviction in 2019, which then led to the possibility of a second trial.

That changed Wednesday when prosecutors ultimately dropped charges of solicitation of murder for hire and solicitation.

When asked why, Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Byrne said based on the facts and circumstances, the state was unable to meet its burden of proof in the case. Byrne did not elaborate further.

Gold-Smith said the case should have been dismissed a long time ago.

“My life’s been ruined by these people. Completely ruined. I lost my law license. I lost my family. Everything I accomplished in life went down the drain, all because of the word of one person, an unreliable jailhouse informant,” said Gold-Smith, referring to former jail inmate Brian McDaniel.

McDaniel was a fellow inmate of Gold-Smith, who been in jail in 2012 on charges alleging he punched his ex-wife in the face several times after a divorce proceeding. A jury found Gold-Smith guilty of the attack.

In 2016, retired Judge Daniel Rozak found Gold-Smith guilty of trying to hire McDaniel to kill his ex-wife in 2012. In 2019, the 3rd District Appellate Court in Ottawa reversed Gold-Smith’s conviction after finding Rozak was wrong to deny a motion for a new judge.

Judge Daniel Rozak on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, at his office in the Will County Courthouse in Joliet, Ill. Judge Rozak, a longtime presiding felony judge, is retiring this month after a 45 year legal career.

Gold-Smith said he’s interviewing attorneys who are “heavy hitters” to file a lawsuit against the Will County sheriff’s detectives who investigated the case, the sheriff’s office and possibly the state’s attorney’s office.

“I want it to be the biggest lawsuit in the history of Will County,” Gold-Smith said.

Gold-Smith’s attorney, Chuck Bretz, said there were health-related issues concerning McDaniel that came up in the case and whether McDaniel was able to remember the events at the time of when the alleged offenses occurred.

In 2017, a jury found Gold-Smith guilty of indirectly communicating with McDaniel and offering him payment to change his testimony in the murder-for-hire case. Gold-Smith lost his appeal of that conviction in 2022.

Gold-Smith said he would’ve won the case in 2016 if not for Rozak, whom he did not consider a fair judge.

At Gold-Smith’s sentencing hearing in 2016, he called Rozak a “throwback to the tyrannical kings, despots and dictators.” Rozak sentenced Gold-Smith to 30 years in prison.

In response to the appellate court’s reversal of Gold-Smith’s conviction, State’s Attorney spokeswoman Carole Cheney has said the court did not question the “efficacy of the proofs offered by the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office underlying the finding of guilt.”

The appellate decision said a “reasonable finder of fact” could find Gold-Smith guilty of solicitation of murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

On Jan. 29, 2021, Gold-Smith’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case. The motion argued McDaniel planned to frame Gold-Smith to achieve a reduced sentence in his aggravated battery case and that he fabricated the audio recording that allegedly revealed Gold-Smith solicited the murder of his ex-wife.

In Judge Vincent Cornelius’ Aug. 10, 2021 decision on the motion, he found Gold-Smith’s constitutional rights were not violated, court records show.