OTTAWA — A judge ordered Monday that a special prosecutor be directed to review a Coal City woman’s strip case and see whether any of the deputies who disrobed her may have committed a crime.
Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. in no way ruled — or even suggested — that the La Salle County sheriff’s deputies who stripped Dana Holmes of her clothes following a May 18 DUI arrest acted improperly.
But the judge nonetheless agreed that a special prosecutor, and not state’s attorney Brian Towne, should make that call.
Ryan issued his ruling following a short hearing in which Holmes’ attorney asked for an independent prosecutor to review the case for criminal charges. Terry Ekl said Towne’s duties include defending other La Salle County employees and asking him to consider charges ”creates the appearance of impropriety.”
“He is not an open-minded and fair prosecutor in this case,” Ekl said.
Towne didn’t take kindly to the notion.
“First of all, I don’t appreciate the notion that after 21 years of service I cannot perform my duties,” he said, further noting that Ekl’s intent was to “sling mud on the four deputies.”
Ryan, however, that Towne’s various duties could lend to the perception of a conflict of interest — and that is reason enough to bring in a special prosecutor to review the case.
Holmes, 33, of Coal City and Ekl are suing La Salle County in federal court, arguing that her civil rights were violated when four deputies (three men and a woman) stripped her and placed her in a padded cell after she reportedly became combative. An attorney for La Salle County argued in turn that the deputies properly followed jail rules and protocols.
Outside the courthouse Monday, Ekl said he still was mulling over whether to initiate a class-action lawsuit. One of the issues to be sorted out, however, was whether the statute of limitations in other strip cases had lapses.
There was no timetable for when a special prosecutor might conclude a review of the Holmes case and make a determination of whether criminal charges were appropriate.
Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.