by Scott Grammer
Francisco Valdes, 44, a jailer with the sheriff’s office in Will County, Illinois, was the subject of a secret prosecution at that county’s courthouse. Valdes was charged with two misdemeanor counts of battery in December 2018.
After the fact of the secret prosecution was revealed by a local newspaper, Will County State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Carole Cheney said, “The State’s Attorney’s Office filed the initial charges and the matter was initially sealed for the protection of the arresting officers. A motion for appointment of the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, to avoid the appearance of an impropriety, was presented to the chief judge and granted. An arrest has been made and the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s Office is free to remove the seal.”
Valdes is accused of attacking prisoner Antonio Russell-Rivers, 20, at the Will County Adult Detention Facility in September 2018. Charging documents and internal affairs reports indicate that Russell-Rivers was sitting on his bunk when Valdes reportedly approached him and struck him in the face – an incident captured on video. An internal affairs investigation ensued.
On April 29, 2019, the Joliet Patch newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking access to documents concerning the Valdes case. Several days later, Shannon Wahl, the FOIA officer for the sheriff’s office, denied the request. She wrote, “The Will County Sheriff’s Office does possess internal reports. The request for these reports is denied. Under 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(d)(iii) create a substantial likelihood that a person will be deprived of a fair trial or an impartial hearing. Also, Under 5 ILCS 140/7(1)a) Information specifically prohibited from disclosure by federal or state law or rules and regulations implementing federal or state law.... This case is sealed by operation of law.”
As of May 4, 2019, the pending criminal case number for Valdes – 2018CM2516 – was not available for inspection on the Will County court’s public access website, nor could it be seen in person at the courthouse.
In a separate prosecution, Will County jailer Paul Sedlacek was charged with two counts of criminal battery in May 2019 for assaulting a prisoner at the Adult Detention Facility. During that incident, Sedlacek is accused of having “knowingly, without legal justification, caused bodily harm to Markease Walker, in that he struck Markease Walker in the head,” according to the criminal complaint. Those charges were not sealed.
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