Special prosecutor requested after letter from Joliet mayor’s attorney

State’s attorney said mayor’s attorney made ‘false’ allegation about investigation

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow requested a special prosecutor for the investigation of Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s confrontation with the two protestors after his office was accused of “steering the investigation away” from O’Dekirk being an apparent victim.

The case file in which Glasgow motioned for a special prosecutor for the investigation of the May 31, 2020, scuffle was unsealed Friday, about 10 months after it was ordered sealed from the public.

Records in the case revealed Glasgow’s motion indicated O’Dekirk’s attorney, Jeff Tomczak, sent a letter to Glasgow’s office “falsely alleging that it was steering the investigation away from his client being a victim.”

“The wisdom of having a third party investigate this matter applies as well to further investigation and or possible prosecution,” Glasgow’s motion said. “Therefore to avoid any appearance of impropriety, which has now been falsely alleged, the state’s attorney seeks to recuse himself from this matter.”

The motion was heard in former Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt’s chambers on August 17, according to court transcripts. Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Chris Koch told Schoenstedt that no charges were filed against Williams and Smith on July 2 “based upon the evidence that was provided from the Illinois State Police at that time.”

He asked Schoenstedt to keep this case “like all MRs (miscellaneous remedy) for investigations” sealed.

Schoenstedt granted the motions and the case was kept sealed until Friday. Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Wilkes motioned to unseal the case after Glasgow’s office apparently learned on June 17 that the investigation was completed and O’Dekirk would face no charges.

Glasgow and his spokeswoman Carole Cheney failed to respond to calls and messages inquiring about the special prosecutor motion on Tuesday.

William Elward, a special prosecutor for the Illinois State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, also failed to respond to calls and messages about the investigation.

Elward wrote a letter to current Chief Judge Dan Kennedy on May 13 that said O’Dekirk would not face charges over his role in the scuffle with brothers Victor Williams and Jamal Smith, court records show. The state police said the case was formally closed on May 25.

“The Illinois State Police have completed their investigation and based on their findings, and assessment of the witnesses in this matter, we have determined not to file charges,” Elward’s letter said.

He wrote the investigation involved “hundreds of pages of reports, dozens of cellphone videos and extensive interviews.”

“While we do not condone O’Dekirk’s poor judgment in the incident, his actions do not rise to criminal liability,” Elward said.

The Herald-News had been inquiring on the status of the investigation about a week before the first anniversary of the scuffle, with prosecutors and court officials either declining to comment or not responding to questions at all.

Tomczak confirmed he sent a letter on July 14 to the state’s attorney’s office. When asked if The Herald-News could view a copy of the letter, Tomczak said he would need to speak with O’Dekirk first.

Tomczak said the letter was sent because he felt there was no investigation of O’Dekirk as the victim in the case.

“I thought the video clearly showed him being battered in a public way,” Tomczak said.

He said he wanted to make sure that aspect was investigated as Glasgow’s initial news release called for the investigation of O’Dekirk and didn’t mention the “individuals who committed a crime against the mayor.”

He said if Glasgow felt what he said in the letter was a false allegation, then he should not have acted on it by appointing a special prosecutor.

“If it was false, then go ahead and investigate it, Jim,” Tomczak said.

He said asking for a special prosecutor indicated that either “something wasn’t right” in Glasgow’s office, that there was a conflict of interest or Glasgow “politically did not want to deal with this matter.”

Tomczak claimed O’Dekirk was attacked twice and that when he was down on the ground, a man “comes up behind him and punches him in the back of the head.”

In O’Dekirk’s interview with state police, he said when he fell to the ground, Smith repeatedly hit him “in his face and head before (Joliet police) officers pulled Williams and Smith off of him.” He said he heard officers yell “let go” as Smith held on to his leg.

In Smith’s interview, he said “he ran towards O’Dekirk and Williams was because he did not know who was attacking his brother, and he felt the need to protect him.” He told police that when he jumped on O’Dekirk, he sensed O’Dekirk falling once he landed on him so he placed his arms around O’Dekirk and Williams, and all three men fell to the ground.

Smith did not mention striking O’Dekirk in his interview and the state police description of the video did not say he struck him.

O’Dekirk has claimed that the video of the incident was altered.

“The video you have seen has been tampered with,” O’Dekirk told The Herald-News when asked about apparent inconsistencies between his accounts of what happened and what was in the video.

O’Dekirk did not respond to calls Tuesday. State police reports do not mention his claim.

When asked about whether the video was altered, Illinois State Police Sgt. Christopher Watson said, “All the information available regarding the investigation would be found in the documents provided to you by” the Freedom of Information Act.

O’Dekirk would not discuss why he initially said he had been pushed by Williams when asked about the incident days after it happened, but told state police later that he grabbed Williams because the protester had raised a clenched fist toward his face and he felt threatened.

In the account provided to state police, O’Dekirk does not say he was ever pushed by Williams.

State police investigators described the video of the incident as showing “Williams, while moving to his left, and O’Dekirk, while moving to his right, again appear face-to-face. O’Dekirk grabs Williams near the chest area of the jacket. The video shows O’Dekirk, while he still holds Williams, spin and push him to his (O’Dekirk) left.”

Former Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner told state police that he twice warned O’Dekirk not to get “involved” with protesters and that after the second time, O’Dekirk replied, “I am the mayor; I can do whatever I want.”

Tomczak said he was proud of O’Dekirk and did not think he deserved the negative attention he received for the incident, which took place at a Black Lives Matter rally over the murder of George Floyd that turned into a riot.

“He’s one of the few mayors in the nation that were actually at the front lines with the police officers, watching what happened,” Tomczak said.

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News