An Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission appeals panel heard oral arguments Friday morning in the latest phase of the fight over whether former Rock Island County states attorney Jeff Terronez should keep his law license.
ARDC branch manager Peter Rotskoff said the panel could take up to 90 days to make a recommendation to the Illinois Supreme Court, which must make the final decision in the case.
Mr. Rotskoff said the justices will review the case, but likely will do so based on the written record of the proceedings. Further oral arguments are possible, but usually are rare.
In August, another ARDC panel recommended Mr. Terronez be suspended from practicing law for two years after he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of providing alcohol to a minor in April of 2011.
Mr. Terronez is accused of buying alcohol for a minor identified as "JW" and a 19-year-old identified as "BY," which led to his resignation as state's attorney in April 2011.
The panel administrator -- the ARDC's version of a prosecutor -- pushed for disbarment, but the panelists ruled there was misconduct but not to the degree contended by the administrator.
The case is in appeal because the ARDC still is arguing that Mr. Terronez should lose his law license.
"In the administrator's view, this a disbarment case, not a suspension," said Steve Splitt, who made the administrator's arguments on Friday.
The administrator's case is focused on Mr. Terronez's relationship with JW, which began during the prosecution of former United Township High School teacher Jason VanHoutte, who is now in prison after pleading guilty to sexual encounters with the underage student.
Mr. Splitt contended that, as the county's lead prosecutor, Mr. Terronez deliberately built trust with JW to aid the case against Mr. VanHoutte. After that case ended, he continued that relationship.
"He (Mr. Terronez) was in a position of trust and authority as to this girl," Mr. Splitt said.
The administrator is arguing that it was during this phase of their relationship that Mr. Terronez allegedly bought her alcohol and sent her what the administrator described as "sexually charged text messages," which were for Mr. Terronez's own sexual gratification.
Mr. Terronez has argued that the texts were jokes between friends, but Mr. Splitt said Mr. Terronez -- as an adult -- was not in a position to have such interactions with the teen.
The administrator also is arguing that Mr. Terronez committed criminal offenses -- purchasing alcohol-- while serving as the county's lead prosecutor and lied to authorities who were investigating those crimes.
The administrator contends that any one of those infractions on their own would lead to a lengthy suspension for an attorney.
Mr. Terronez represented himself at the Friday appeal panel. He argued that during the initial phase of the case against him, the administrator did not meet the burden of required proof.
He described his behavior as reprehensible, but said no professional relationship existed between himself and JW when the misconduct occurred."Once the case (against Mr. VanHoutte) completed, I simply had no authority over her."
Mr. Terronez denied allegations he was getting sexual gratification from their interactions, and said he had no physical contact with the teen and was not sexually attracted to her.
He repeated that his relationship with JW had become friendly and that he was joking with her, but agreed with Mr. Splitt that hisbehavior was not appropriate. However, he said, the administrator's case just doesn't have the evidence to prove there was sexual exploitation.
Mr. Terronez, who received an interim suspension when the case was filed against him, expressed regret for his behavior."What I did here has devastated myself, my career, my family."
Mr. Terronez declined to comment outside of the statements he made during the proceedings.
Today is Monday, Dec. 9, the 343rd day of 2013. There are 22 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: All last week were favored with the most delightful Indian summer weather. The mercury ranged from 40 to 65 degrees and the ice is entirely gone out of the river. 1888 — 125 years ago: W.D. Reimers was given charge of the Weyerhaeuser-Denkmann mill in Davenport. 1913 — 100 years ago: Eight hundred or more tons of earth in six landslides, covered 38th Street for a distance of 200 feet near 7th Avenue and destroyed much property. 1938 — 75 years ago: Patrolman Joseph H. Schnelder, of Moline, has been awarded four medals for proficiency in marksmanship. He is the crack pistol shot of the Rock Island district. 1963 — 50 years ago: For the 83rd year, George Frederic Handel's "Messiah" was performed at Augustana College ushering in the spiritual aspect of the Christmas season. 1988 — 25 years ago: A water main break Thursday night, the fourth this week, affected 35 homes near the 2200 block of 39th Street, Rock Island, city officials said today.