Prosecutor working under Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez failed to collect evidence in high-profile case alleging sexual assault at university campus in Chicago.
A high-profile case involving allegations of rape at Loyola University Chicago was quietly closed earlier this year after the defendant pleaded guilty to a lesser offense.
But a Better Government Association review found that the Cook County state’s attorney’s office made a potentially significant blunder as the case unfolded, raising questions about whether or not the mistake had any impact on the case’s outcome, according to court records and interviews.
In 2013, the state’s attorney’s office charged Colin Kennedy, then a freshman at Loyola, with criminal sexual assault for allegedly raping two female Loyola students he knew, in two separate incidents within a 24-hour period at a university dorm.
Kennedy pleaded guilty earlier this year to misdemeanor battery, a much less serious crime. He was sentenced to one year of probation, and the other charges were dropped.
The state’s attorney’s office, headed by Anita Alvarez, refused to explain what happened or answer any questions about the case.
Court records, however, indicate that the prosecutor, Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Moore, intervened as defense attorneys were trying to gather records from the two women who made the accusations against Kennedy as well as other students. Moore stated she would get the information from the students instead so they wouldn’t be bothered by the defense before final exams.
But Moore apparently forgot to try and collect certain cell phone records until months later, after it was too late, records show.
Kennedy’s defense attorneys had wanted copies of text messages exchanged between one of the accusers and her friend, but the friend got a new phone before the prosecutor told her it needed to be saved, according to court records.
“Your Honor, honestly I think it slipped my mind for a few months,” Moore said, according to the transcripts. “I think what happened was I was expecting her to call me and she didn’t. And then I got busy with other things unfortunately.”
Judge Thaddeus L. Wilson called the lapse “disturbing” and said he was “very concerned about the lack of due diligence on the part of the State,” court documents show.
Kennedy’s attorney Michael Schmiege then filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that without the evidence from the phone, the defendant’s rights to due process and a fair trial had been violated.
“The government was aware the Defendant was seeking this particular evidence and knowingly failed to gather or preserve these materials despite ample opportunity to do so. As a result, the information sought in the subpoenas was deleted and is now permanently destroyed,” the motion reads.
A plea agreement was subsequently reached in which the felony charges were dropped, and Kennedy agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor battery.
Moore declined to comment, saying she wasn’t authorized to talk to the press.
Schmiege said in a statement that other texts and Facebook messages contradicted the two women’s statements to police so he was “able to convince the Cook County State’s Attorney that there was a conspiracy and collusion between the two alleged victims to frame Mr. Kennedy for a crime he did not commit.”
The two accusers either couldn’t be reached or wouldn’t comment to a reporter.
A Loyola spokeswoman said via email to direct questions to the state’s attorney’s office.
It’s unclear how often the state’s attorney’s office agrees to lower charges from criminal sexual assault or drop them altogether. The agency would not provide data related to its track record on sexual assault cases.
The BGA attempted to get basic information about its sex crime division, including the experience level and average case load for attorneys, the number of cases prosecuted and their success rate, and the number of cases that have not passed felony review and the reasons why.
Alvarez’s office denied the BGA’s request – which was filed under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, the state’s open records law – saying “FOIA does not direct public bodies to answer questions or provide data upon request.”
Alvarez’s press secretary, Sally Daly, didn’t respond to subsequent inquiries.
Alvarez, meanwhile, has targeted sex crimes as one of her signature issues throughout her tenure. Last year, for example, she established the office’s first prosecution unit for sexual assault and domestic violence cases.
But this isn’t the first time questions have been raised about how her office handled a sexual assault complaint.
As the BGA previously reported, a woman who had been working as an intern at the Forest Park Police Department filed a lawsuit against the village claiming a Forest Park police officer raped her in an unmarked squad car after the two went bar-hopping one night in 2011.
Related Article: Accused Of Raping Intern, Cop Still On Force
The state’s attorney’s office declined to file charges saying there was not enough evidence.
However, prosecutors never interviewed the cop and their decision-making relied in part on a report from a private investigator who was hired by the village to look into the matter.