An Illinois judge was removed from presiding over criminal cases after reversing his own decision to convict a teen with sexual assault. The backlash over his ruling case sexual assault survivors, including the high school student at the center of the rape case in question.
According to the Herald-Whig, Judge Frank McCartney, chief judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, issued an administrative order to be filed Thursday, Jan. 13, reassigning Judge Robert Adrian from criminal court to small claims, legal matters, probate dockets, and civil matters after his controversial decision has become a major eyebrow-raising headline.
After a three-day bench trial in October, Adrian found Drew Clinton, 18, guilty on one count of criminal sexual assault of Cameron Vaughan at a graduation party on May 30, 2021. Clinton was convicted of digitally penetrating a 16-year-old girl without her consent.
Vaughan recalled the night of the assault, WGEM reports, saying the young man attacked her while she was asleep.
“I woke up at my friend’s place with a pillow over my face so I couldn’t be heard and Drew Clinton inside of me,” she explained. “I asked him to stop multiple times and he wouldn’t. I finally got off the couch and pushed him off of me and he jumped up and just started playing video games as if nothing had happened.”
Vaughan told her parents and her father reported the crime to the Quincy Police Department. Clinton’s conviction at a bench trial in October seemed to be the first step in getting justice for the victim.
Clinton pleaded not guilty to all the charges, claiming the interaction was consensual.
However, at the sentencing three months later, Judge Adrian reversed his decision.
By overturning the conviction, the judge circumvented the mandatory minimum sentencing of four years that Clinton would have had to serve. He ruled that prosecutors had not proved their case, preventing the teenager from being tried again (under double jeopardy rules).
Transcript documents from the sentencing hearing on Jan. 3, stated that the judge believed that since the young man had already spent a few months in jail, he’d experienced “plenty of punishment,” time served was a “just sentence” for the assault and to send him to Illinois Department of Corrections would not be a fair or “just” sentence.
Court transcripts record Adrian as saying, “Mr. Clinton has served almost five months in the county jail, 148 days. For what happened in this case, that is plenty of punishment. That would be a just sentence.”
Adrian argued in the court that Clinton’s age and maturity should be considered, “This happened when this teenager — because he was and is a teenager, was two weeks past 18 years old. He has no prior record, none whatsoever. By law, the court is supposed to sentence this young man to the Department of Corrections. This court will not do that. That is not just.”
Instead, he placed the blame on the parents. The grown-ups responsible for the teens should have made sure that there were no alcoholic beverages present at a gathering where minors would be recreating, he asserted.
“I cannot believe that adults that were involved in this case … took their responsibilities so lightly for these teenage kids,” the judge reprimanded. “This is what’s happened when parents do not exercise their parental responsibilities, when we have people, adults, having parties for teenagers, and they allow coeds and female people to swim in their underwear in their swimming pool.”
Several people have spoken out against his ruling, including Vaughan, her parents, Quanada (a network for domestic violence support), the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Assistant State’s Attorney Anita Rodriguez.
Vaughan’s father said, “It’s worse now than it was (before), because not only does she not have her justice, but now she feels like she spoke up for nothing, and you know that hurts. Now she wishes she wouldn’t have even said anything.”
Rodriguez, who has worked 40 years prosecuting sex offenders, said, “My heart is bleeding for the victim. It was a very difficult bench trial. It did a lot for her healing process, but now she’s back to where we were at.”
Tensions started to run high by Jan. 12, the Whig reported, when Judge Adrian tossed Josh Jones, lead trial attorney for the Adams County state’s attorney’s office, out of the courtroom. He excused Jones because the lawyer liked a Facebook post that criticized the reversal. Last Wednesday, Jones was representing a woman in an unrelated case. Still, the judge believed that he could not control himself while presiding, knowing that the man agreed with criticism about him on social media.
“I can’t be fair with you. Get out,” the judge barked.
The next day, Judge McCartney moved Judge Adrian from criminal courts over to courts that handle civil disputes. Until further notice, he placed Judge Scott Larson over the cases once assigned to Judge Adrian.
Cases once presided over by Adrian will now be transferred to other qualified judges in the circuit. On the occasion that one of the cases moves to a jury trial, McCartney ordered that Adrian not be included as a judge on the jury calendar.
An online petition has been started, asking that Adrian face charges for the abuse of judicial discretion. As of publishing, almost 26.5K people have signed the #StandwithCammy petition.
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