Big trials deplete fund
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org December 12, 2012 9:02PM
Drew Peterson's lawyers (from left to right) Darryl Goldberg, Joel Brodsky, Joseph Lopez and Steven Greenberg address the media outside the Will County Courthouse Friday, May 4, 2012, at 14 W. Jefferson St. in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 7:19AM
JOLIET — The prosecution of two high-profile murder cases involving Drew Peterson and Christopher Vaughn didn’t come cheap for Will County.
A few years ago the county transferred $500,000 into a special prosecution fund, mostly for those two cases. But that money is gone. Now, State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow has requested another $100,000 be transferred into the account.
“Criminal justice costs the county more than any other facet of county government,” said Bruce Friefeld, the county board’s chief of staff.
The Peterson and Vaughn cases weren’t your average homicide cases, said Charles Pelkie, a spokesman for Glasgow’s office.
“When you get right down to it, they were probably two of the biggest cases in the history of Will County,” he said.
Peterson and Vaughn’s trials both ended in September.
Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, was convicted of killing his third wife years after she was found dead in a dry bathtub. Her 2004 death, originally ruled an accident, was re-investigated after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in October 2007. He will be sentenced next year.
Vaughn was convicted of shooting his wife and three children on an Interstate 55 frontage road in Channahon Township during the Oswego family’s outing to a downstate water park in June 2007. Last month, he was sentenced to four life terms.
There are outstanding expert witness bills from both trials. The county board will vote to replenish the fund used to pay those bills at its Dec. 20 meeting.
County Finance Director Paul Rafac said the requested $100,000 was available in a county board contingency fund, and it could be transferred into Glasgow’s special prosecution fund.
Rafac said the special fund was kept separate from other county funds because of the confidential nature of the expenses. Keeping expert witnesses secret is part of trial strategy, county officials explained.
Though the fund was confidential, county officials did scrutinize the bills to make sure the money wasn’t being spent inappropriately, Friefeld said.
“It was the normal things you’d have with a trial,” he said of the payments.
County board member Dave Izzo, R-Tinley Park, asked at Monday’s meeting if there had ever been an official audit of the $500,000.
Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Tatroe, who is chief of the civil division, said now that Vaughn’s trial is over, those bills could be released. But an appeal is pending for Peterson, so the office was “less inclined” to release those payments, Tatroe said.
County Auditor Duffy Blackburn said the total amount spent each year from the fund was listed on his website. Glasgow’s office spent $269,066 in 2010, $48,140 in 2011 and $182,478 in 2012. If $100,000 is added to the 2012 budget, that will boost the total to $282,478.
Payment details were kept confidential at the state’s attorney’s request, Blackburn said. Blackburn said once he gets the go-ahead to release the details he will put the information online at www.willcountyauditor.com. But it’s up Glasgow’s office to make the decision, Blackburn said.
“We haven’t pressured them,” he said.