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 Friday, Aug. 22, the 234th day of 2014. There are 131 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: The ferry boat, Rock Island, having been put in good order at the boat yard is now making her regular trips, much to the gratification of those who have to cross the river. 1889 -- 125 years ago: W.J. Gamble, for many years superintendent of the Moline & Rock Island railway, leased the Fourth Avenue Hotel and renovated and refurnished it throughout. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Pending the building of new public schools or additions to the present ones to provide adequate room for all the children, the board of education decided that pupils younger than 6 years old would not be accepted in Rock Island schools. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The fifth annual New Windsor Fair and Horse show, which has been delayed for two days because of unfavorable weather, got off to a new start last night. The parade was held this morning. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The Rock Island County Fair and Rodeo will celebrate its silver anniversary this year. The fair opens Tuesday and will run through Saturday and offers entertainment and activity for young and old. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Earl Hanson School, Rock Island, joins the Program to Assist Latch Key Student, which aids working parents. PALS is a before and after school program for grades 1-6 in certain Rock Island public and private schools.