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 Tuesday, May 21, the 141st day of 2013. There are 224 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: On Monday the 11th inst. on Center Ridge in Mercer County,some citizens got out their cannon to celebrate the taking of Richmond. The gun wasoverloaded and burst. No one was injured, but one 30-pound piece went though thesecond story of a house. 1888 -- 125 years ago: The old folks concert at the Harper Theater last night to benefit St.Luke's Cottage Hospital, attracted a large audience. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Unless depredation by vandals in Rock Island parks is halted,special policemen will be assigned to night duty to protect the flowers and other property. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Station WHBF has received a special citation from Washington forits participation in Air Mail Week, which was observed this week throughout the nation. 1963 -- 50 years ago: A 10-year high in employment in the Quad-City area was reachedat the end of the last quarter, according to an industrial employment barometer releasedtoday. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Pee Wee teams will be able to play baseball and softball as usualon Diamond Three at Dorrance Park this summer, but after that, the ball field is doomed.County crews have put the diamond back in shape after heavy trucks marred the playingfield earlier this spring. Illinois Department of Transportation crews drove onto it to makeborings for the relocation of the junction of Illinois 84 and the Port Byron-Hillsdale road.