Monday, April 16, 2007

Beacon News :: News :: Drug court forum brings tears, rage

Beacon News :: News :: Drug court forum brings tears, rage Drug court forum brings tears, rage April 13, 2007 By MATT HANLEY Staff Writer The fact that two Batavia police officers had to be called to a forum about former Kane County Judge Jim Doyle's drug court -- almost a year after the judge stepped down -- demonstrates how much passion still surrounds the issue. At a meeting called by State Sen. Chris Lauzen Wednesday night, angry accusations and tearful endorsements filled a tense and bizarre hour. Some grads talked about how drug court saved them from certain ruin. RELATED STORIES• New fee supports drug court "Now I'm a good mother to my kids," drug court grad Virginia Tribble testified. "I love that man for what he has done for my life." But others got up and said that for all the good Doyle's drug court did, the program had faults. "Was Jim Doyle a bad man?" asked Tom Ratz, a former drug court participant. "No, but he made mistakes, in my book." Ratz was one of the defendants who felt his civil rights were trampled by Doyle, who forced him to stay in drug court too long and jailed him unfairly, according to Ratz. After the program started in 2000, hundreds of people came through Doyle's courtroom, where they were given a chance to avoid prison while they worked to break their addiction. Doyle received national praise as the program grew to more than 700 participants. But in November 2004, the state Judicial Inquiry Board accused Doyle of abusing "the powers of his office by systematically violating the constitutional and statutory rights of criminal defendants." In June of 2006, Doyle retired before either he or the JIB could present their cases. Judge William Weir now runs the drug court. Weir was not present at the meeting Tuesday, and Doyle declined to speak about the investigation or the JIB Wednesday. Since Doyle's resignation, Lauzen has taken up the case, asking to know how much the JIB spent on its investigation of Doyle. "When a state agency comes after a good person, you have to push back," Lauzen said. "It ain't their money; it's your (taxpayers') money." Lauzen, R-Aurora, called Wednesday's meeting at the Batavia VFW after he was denied the right to speak for six minutes at a state appropriations committee, where Lauzen wanted to present charts showing how successful Doyle's court had been. But Lauzen says he wasn't allowed to speak. "My father was wounded twice (in war)," Lauzen said, adding that his son is an active Marine. "They do not put their lives on the line to muzzle free speech." Lauzen is asking for leadership change in the JIB and more openness. No members of the board were present, and Lauzen did not address the concerns raised in the complaint against Doyle. Anger from people who felt the forum was biased -- particularly Ratz's regular outbursts -- led the police to be called, although the officers stood in the back and made no arrests. No official stance or plan of action was taken at the meeting, but it was recorded to be shown on cable TV at a future date. "There were moments that were difficult, but that's what happens in a country with free speech," Lauzen said after the meeting. "The people who wanted to do damage interrupted."

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