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Clash over special prosecutor in complicated DUI case

Updated: November 30, 2012 11:10AM

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP — What started as a seemingly simple drunken driving arrest in May will require a hearing in October to decide who gets to prosecute the case.

On Thursday, Kane County Judge Thomas Stanfa told attorneys he would hear arguments over the appointment of a special prosecutor in the DUI case of John Holdren of Aurora.

Court records show the Kane County state’s attorney’s office was surprised by Stanfa’s decision on Aug. 20 to appoint a special prosecutor to handle Holdren’s case. Holdren’s attorney, Kathleen Colton, requested one be brought in because of what she considers a conflict stemming from a July 13 courthouse incident she says was witnessed by an assistant state’s attorney. The disagreement over who should prosecute is part of what has become an increasingly complicated case.

According to court records, an Aurora police officer stopped Holdren near Galena Boulevard and West Park Place around 5:30 p.m. on May 22. The officer wrote in the DUI complaint that Holdren, 67, had glassy, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and smelled of alcohol. Holdren registered a .147 blood-alcohol content level — the legal limit in Illinois is .08 — and told the officer he had two or three glasses of wine, records state.

The officer gave Holdren a warning to motorist, which includes information about a mandatory summary suspension of his drivers license, but failed to enter two dates required by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. An official there, in a letter dated May 31, notified police and the Kane County Circuit Clerk that Holdren could not have his license suspended because of the errors, documents show. Colton filed in mid-June to have the suspension rescinded, and Stanfa granted the request.

Colton claims the officer, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, approached Holdren after that hearing and “made derogatory and threatening comments to him in the presence of witnesses,” a motion for sanctions states. Colton said an assistant state’s attorney witnessed the incident. On July 24, the officer filed a new warning to motorist, with the word “amended” written in the upper left corner and couched by asterisks. The amended version included the two dates which were missing from the original notice filled out two months earlier. Colton says the officer re-filed the paperwork knowing the original suspension had been voided, but did it to harass Holdren.

Prosecutors suggest they weren’t notified of the move to appoint a special prosecutor, and now want Stanfa to reconsider that decision.

“The motion for special prosecutor contains no facts or evidence to support the request,” the reconsideration motion reads.

Colton told Stanfa on Thursday that she would need three weeks to respond to the motion, although her original motion contends a conflict exists because the prosecutor who witnessed the reported encounter between Holdren and the officer might be called to testify as part of her move for sanctions related to the officer’s actions.

Another sidelight came last month when prosecutors, expecting the case to go to a bench trial on Thursday, asked Stanfa to forbid Holdren from wearing a priest collar at trial. According to the motion, prosecutors objected to Holdren wearing clerical clothing because he has not been an acting priest since 1994. The clothing would be prejudicial, prosecutors contended. Holdren appeared to be wearing a collar on Thursday.

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