On Sunday, July 9, 2023, The News-Gazette reported that Adams County Circuit Judge Robert Adrian who has been retained in judicial office by voters and reinstated to his criminal court assignment following his handling of a sexual assault case that has sparked a nationwide controversy will be facing a three-day hearing before the seven-member Illinois Courts Commission on Judicial Misconduct.

The charges against Adrian stemmed from a bench trial he conducted in October 2021, in which he first found 18-year-old Drew Clinton guilty of a sexual assault that occurred at a high school graduation party. The victim was a 16-year-old girl who had consumed too much alcohol and passed out, leaving her vulnerable to the assault.

Clinton was subject to a mandatory minimum four-year prison term under Illinois law.

Evidently, Adrian was unaware that a prison sentence was necessary when he returned the guilty verdict. He declared that “the court will not do that” because there is “no way for what happened in this case that” Clinton should go to prison.

Judge Adrian overturned the criminal sexual assault conviction after the matter was discussed in court and ordered Clinton’s release. He referred to Clinton’s 148 days in prison as “plenty of punishment.”

The victim and her family, as well as other members of the community, were horrified by Adrian’s choice. Public outcry and protests were sparked by news stories that spread across the country.

Judge Adrian was ultimately charged by the JIB for demeaning his judicial office by refusing to comply with the law. Specifically, he was accused of reversing a guilty verdict in order to prevent the defendant from serving a mandatory prison sentence.

The JIB has filed the charges based on excerpts from transcripts of Adrian’s comments. In response, Adrian denies the characterization of the record and the incomplete citations, stating that the full transcript provides the most accurate evidence of what he actually said.

Additionally, the JIB alleged that Adrian lied during his testimony when he claimed that his decision to reverse the guilty finding was based on the evidence and his conclusion that the state had not proven Clinton’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Following the controversy, Adrian experienced a clear demotion as he was reassigned from criminal court to small claims. However, in January 2023, he was subsequently returned to criminal court.

The outcome of the upcoming hearing on November 7-9 will determine whether Adrian will keep his job as a judge or face the consequences of his alleged misconduct.

The composition of the panel from the Illinois Supreme Court remains uncertain, as both Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville, who is the chairman of the commission, and Justice David Overstreet, who is Neville’s designated substitute, have recused themselves from the case for undisclosed reasons.

 

Source: The News-Gazette