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Sheriff moves to erase report on 1999 jail beatings

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by FRANK MAIN ,STEVE PATTERSON

The former judge who led a special grand jury investigation into beatings at Cook County Jail socialized with the jury foreman and speculated the findings would end Sheriff Michael Sheahan's political career, records show.

The jury released a scathing report in September accusing the sheriff's office of covering up a mass beating by jail guards in 1999. The sheriff filed a complaint Monday in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to expunge the 150-page report from the public record.

The sheriff contends former Judge Thomas Hett demonstrated bias against him in the way he conducted the grand jury investigation.

"We always suspected there were other motivations for Hett," sheriff's spokeswoman Sally Daly said.
"The sheriff feels very strongly a political motive was at work."

Hett improperly offered "editorial comment and opinions" to the grand jury, according to Monday's complaint.

'Hostess with the mostest'

Specifically, the sheriff's office points to Hett's comments in an Aug. 30 grand jury transcript -- weeks before the report was released Sept. 16.

"What's going to happen when this comes out?" Hett said. "I think it's going to be a wake-up call, number one. And, number two, it's going to cause him to be unable to run again."

On Monday, Hett said he did not remember commenting on Sheahan's political career.

The sheriff's complaint also accused Hett of having improper contact with jurors.

In an e-mail obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, Hett told jury foreman Wayne Milczarek and his wife: "You are the quintessential host and hostess with the mostest. Bobbie and I are aware of the very hard work and long planning the evening took. The food was out of this world. The conversation was lively [we even got some work done] and your home is beautiful."

Hett said he saw nothing improper with having dinner with the Milczareks.

"I was the investigator for the grand jury and he was the foreman -- I was working for him
[Milczarek]. We had a number of meetings, not just at his house, because that was part of my job
and there was nothing inappropriate about that," Hett said.

Consulting deal also criticized

The sheriff also said Hett should not have hired his son's consulting firm for "document
management" -- or engage the law firms of Jenner & Block or Winston & Strawn to perform work on
grand jury matters. The law firms represented people who sued the sheriff's office over the jail,
the sheriff's complaint said. Hett would not comment on his son's work.

Sheriff's officials said they are asking the court to expunge the grand jury report because they
want to prevent it from being used as evidence in other cases, such as a lawsuit that former jail
guards have brought against Sheahan claiming they were forced to resign because they would not
cover up beatings. The sheriff denies a cover-up.

Even if the grand jury report is expunged, it would not affect a $362,000 settlement the county has
agreed to pay inmate Cello Pettiford in a lawsuit saying he was a victim in a February 1999 mass
beating.


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