Van Til will ask appeals court to review evidence rulings
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org September 24, 2013 4:40PM
George Van Til, Lake County Surveyor.
Updated: October 26, 2013 6:32AM
Lake County Surveyor George Van Til’s attorney wants to keep pursuing his request to see more of the government’s evidence against his client despite a federal judge’s ruling against him.
According to a motion filed Tuesday, Scott King, Van Til’s lawyer, wants to ask the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to review denials by two federal judges to let King and Van Til view statements from government witnesses now instead of just days before trial.
Federal attorneys charged Van Til in May with six counts of wire fraud, accusing him of using his office and county employees for political work during his re-election campaigns in 2008 and 2012. He’s also charged with obstructing justice by telling one employee to destroy a county-owned hard drive. Van Til is set to go on trial Dec. 9.
Federal law bans defendants from subpoenaing statements and reports made by government witnesses until the witness has testified at trial. King has argued, however, that not seeing this evidence before trial violates Van Til’s constitutional rights to effective counsel because it means King cannot properly advise Van Til on whether he should take a plea agreement.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry and U.S. District Judge James Moody both denied the request. Moody noted in his ruling, issued Thursday, that the issue should be decided by the 7th Circuit.
King said the law, called the Jencks Act, doesn’t protect secret government documents, as it was originally intended to do when it was created in the 1950s, so much as lets federal attorneys hold an upper hand by letting them spring evidence on defense attorneys at the last minute.
“In my view, this isn’t about protecting the secrecy of anything,” King said. “It’s all about trying to gain tactical advantage.”
Van Til said he sees the issue as one of fairness.
“It’s clear that the government has, in situations like this, many, many, many, many, many advantages,” the surveyor said. “... It’s difficult at best (for a defendant), but fairness would seem to indicate that we need some relief on this.”
Federal attorneys have said in prior court filings that they want to protect the identification of some of the witnesses who still work for Van Til, who could possibly retaliate against them before trial.
King’s motion on Tuesday asked Judge Moody to certify his order, which would allow it to move forward to the 7th Circuit. However, King said, he believes he can most likely appeal even without certification and will probably do so in any case. Moody gave federal attorneys until Oct. 4 to respond.