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U.S. judge says Sheahan smeared him in affidavit

Thursday, March 02, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Michael Higgins

A federal judge fired back Wednesday at Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan, saying the sheriff had unfairly smeared him in an affidavit that charged the judge had "utter disdain" for law enforcement.

"How can any responsible attorney say that?" U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo asked Sheahan's lawyer. "You would do that to my career? ... I think it's an utter disservice to me and my career."

Castillo asked Michael Hayes Sr., attorney for Sheahan and several other defendants in a civil lawsuit, whether he and his clients knew that Castillo had been a federal prosecutor.

The judge asked whether they knew that his work on one case had caused a drug dealer to plot to kill him and that the dealer was now serving a life sentence.

Hayes insisted in court that the affidavit represented his client's view and not his own. But Hayes didn't retreat from the position that Castillo had shown bias against Sheahan and others and should step down from the case.

Castillo said he would give Sheahan and other sheriff's officials a week to consider whether to amend their motion to recuse. He said he might rule on the motion at a hearing set for March 17.

The battle stems from a lawsuit that two former jail guards, Roger Fairley and Richard Gackowski, filed in 2003. The guards allege that they were subjected to harassment and threats--and eventually forced to resign--because they refused to cover up an alleged jail beating in 2000.

In several hearings, Castillo has expressed dismay that the County Board's litigation subcommittee had not authorized the county's lawyers to negotiate a settlement. At a hearing in November, Castillo called the county's ongoing legal fees a "misexpenditure of public funds."

Hayes said Castillo went too far at a hearing last month when he compared the legal fees to money lost through political corruption. "While this is not a public corruption case, any time taxpayer money is wasted, that, to me is the equivalent of corruption," Castillo said at the hearing.

Sheahan was one of 12 defendants who filed motions last week asking Castillo to step down.

The county, which is represented by Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine's office, did not join in the motion to recuse.

"Maybe I've pushed too hard to settle this case," Castillo said Wednesday, adding that, if so, it was because the case has dragged on for three years.

Castillo said he had nothing personal against Sheahan or any other defendants.



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