Judge won’t grant appeal of ruling in Van Til case
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org October 10, 2013 4:50PM
Updated: November 12, 2013 6:29AM
A federal judge ruled Thursday he would not grant Lake County Surveyor George Van Til’s request for permission to appeal a ruling over when he could see evidence the government has against him.
However, Van Til said he still wants to pursue appealing the ruling to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“It’s rather disheartening that the judge ruled this way,” Van Til said. “...I’m certainly urging my attorney to pursue this.”
Scott King, Van Til’s attorney, has said he believes his client’s argument could move forward even without U.S. District Judge James Moody’s support. King could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Prosecutors in May charged Van Til with six counts of wire fraud connected to what they say was his use of his county office and employees to help run his re-election campaigns in 2008 and 2012. Court records say that, among other political activity, employees would call donors during work hours to sell fundraising tickets.
Van Til is also charged with one count each of obstructing justice and attempting to prevent communication to federal agents. Federal attorneys claim Van Til had a county employee replace a county hard drive and then told the employee to not tell anyone they had that conversation.
Van Til has pleaded not guilty in the case and strenuously defended himself, including by filing a motion asking to see government witnesses now instead of just before the trial. A federal law called the Jencks Act allows federal attorneys to not disclose these witnesses and their statements until they actually take the stand during trial, and federal attorneys in this case have said they intend to make those witnesses known to the defense just before trial.
King has argued in filings that this violates Van Til’s right to effective counsel, however, because without the information now, he can’t properly advise Van Til on whether he should seek a plea agreement. Van Til said Thursday he wants to pursue this defense because federal attorneys have such an uneven advantage against criminal defendants.
“All of the rules seem to be skewed in favor of the government so that we certainly need to have this, as many opportunities to defend and to have our case be treated in an appropriate way,” Van Til said.
Federal attorneys have argued that some of the witnesses still work under Van Til’s authority and he could seek retribution against them. He disputed that, saying there’s been no evidence from the past year and a half, when the federal government first started investigating him, that he has tried to punish any of his employees at any time.
“It’s stunning that I have to contend with this,” Van Til said.
Moody denied Van Til’s request last month, and King then filed a request for Moody to issue a certificate of appealability, which would move the case to the 7th Circuit. Moody said in his ruling against granting the certificate that the Jencks Act has a 30-year history in which it’s never been considered to violate someone’s constitutional rights and that King’s argument were not strong enough to raise a substantial question of the law.