BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
OF THE
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
AND
DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

JEFF TERRONEZ,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No. 6244003.

 

Commission No. 2011PR00085  

FILED -  July 12, 2011

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Peter L. Rotskoff, pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 753(b) and 761, complains of Respondent, Jeff Terronez, who was licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois on November 6, 1997, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute:

Background Common to Both Counts

1. Between 2004 and April 26, 2011, Respondent was the State's Attorney of Rock Island County, Illinois.

2. On August 12, 2009, Respondent filed a three-count Information against Jason VanHoutte, charging him with Criminal Sexual Assault. The Information alleged that VanHoutte, a 38-year-old social studies teacher at United Township High School in East Moline, Illinois, began a relationship with one of his students, JW, by exchanging text messages with her. Eventually VanHoutte engaged in sexual acts with JW, who was 15 years old at the time of those acts.

3. Respondent was the lead prosecutor in the VanHoutte case. During the pendency of the case, Respondent met with JW at least on a monthly basis between August 2009 and May 2010. One of the purposes of the meetings was to foster a relationship of trust between Respondent and JW. At one of the meetings at JW's home, Respondent met JW's friend, BY who was also present, who was then 19 years old.

4. On May 10, 2010, VanHoutte pled guilty to three counts of criminal sexual assault and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

COUNT I

(Overreaching his position of trust as a prosecutor and
engaging in criminal conduct
)

5. Between May 10, 2010, and October 2010, Respondent exchanged numerous phone calls and text messages with JW and BY. Some of the calls and text messages related to requests by JW and BY that Respondent supply them with alcohol.

6. In some of the text messages sent by Respondent, he made false representations to JW and BY, including falsely claiming that he was divorced and that he had a girlfriend he was dating regularly. At the time Respondent was exchanging calls and text messages with JW and BY, he was married and had one child.

7. In or around late June or early July, 2010, Respondent spoke to JW by telephone and JW invited Respondent to attend a party at BY's home, while BY's parents were out of town. Respondent drove to the party around midnight where he spoke to JW.

8. Between July 1, 2010 and August 15, 2010, Respondent provided alcohol to JW and BY on at least five occasions. On each occasion, Respondent and JW or BY exchanged text messages or phone calls and then met in a parking lot or a park in the East Moline area where Respondent provided the girls with alcohol (usually Mike's Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Twist). Respondent knew that JW was 16 years old at the time and BY was 19 years old and that neither was old enough to lawfully consume alcohol.

9. During the week of July 12, 2010, Respondent was scheduled to attend a continuing legal education seminar for prosecutors at the University of Illinois in Champaign.

10. On Wednesday, July 14, 2010, Respondent drove JW and BY to Champaign. JW and BY stayed in Respondent's hotel room with Respondent on Wednesday night, July 14, and Thursday night, July 15, 2010. Respondent did not advise either of the girls' parents about the trip. He provided both minors with alcohol on the trip, during which he also accompanied them to a bar in Champaign.

11. Respondent provided JW and BY with alcohol on other occasions after July 16, 2010, including supplying JW with alcohol at Mitchell Park in East Moline, Illinois, on August 15, 2010. A copy of some of the text messages sent between Respondent [JT] and JW prior to the meeting in Mitchell Park on August 15, 2010 are attached as Exhibit 1.

12. On or about August 20, 2010, Respondent learned that the Illinois State Police were investigating his conduct with respect to JW and BY. He did not provide either JW or BY with alcohol after August 20, 2010.

13. On April 26, 2011, the Illinois Attorney General's Office filed a criminal complaint against Respondent in the Circuit Court of Rock Island County, charging him with one count of Unlawful Delivery Of Alcoholic Liquor To A Person Under The Age of 21, a Class A misdemeanor, in violation of ILCS ch. 235, sec. 5/6-16(a)(iii). The case was docketed as People v. Terronez, case number 11 CM 48.

14. On April 26, 2011, Respondent pled guilty to the charge alleged in the complaint and he was sentenced to two years of probation with conditions, including the payment of court costs and a $2,500 fine. The Court also ordered that Respondent forfeit any future pension from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, and ordered that he not seek public office at any time in the future.

15. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. overreaching his position of trust and authority as a prosecutor;

  2. committing criminal acts that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer and other respects, in violation of Rule 8.4(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  3. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  4. conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  5. conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

COUNT II
(False statements to police during criminal investigation)

16. The Administrator realleges the facts set forth in paragraphs one through fourteen of Count I, above.

17. On August 20, 2010, Respondent learned from another attorney that the Illinois State Police were investigating Respondent's relationships with JW and BY, and were also investigating allegations that he had provided alcohol to the minors.

18. On August 20, 2010, Respondent called the Illinois State Police Sergeant Jerome Costliow. During the telephone conversation, Respondent acknowledged meeting with JW at Mitchell Park on August 15, 2010, but specifically denied that he had ever provided JW with alcohol.

19. Respondent's statement to Costliow that he never provided JW with alcohol was false and Respondent knew it was false at the time he made the statement because he had provided alcohol to JW on at least five occasions.

20. On August 24, 2010, Respondent was interviewed by Illinois State Police Sergeant Jerome Costliow and Special Agent Sharleen Seas, at the Rock Island County State's Attorney's Office. Prior to the interview, Costliow provided Respondent with the Miranda warnings.

21. During the interview, Respondent made the following statements:

- that he never provided alcohol to JW or BY;

- that he had been joking when he sent a text message to JW which indicated that he would buy her alcohol;

- that he did not take JW to Champaign on July 14, 2010 and he met her there in Champaign by happenstance;

- that he slept in his SUV and not in his hotel room in Champaign on Thursday night, July 15, 2010, while JW slept in his hotel room;

- that JW did not ride home with him from Champaign;

- that he went to the party at BY's home to "clear everyone out".

22. Each statement set forth above was false. Respondent knew each statement was false at the time he made the statement and he made each statement with the intent to obstruct a bona fide criminal investigation.

23. By reason of the conduct outlined above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  2. conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  3. conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

WHEREFORE, the Administrator requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.


Peter L. Rotskoff
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission
One North Old Capitol Plaza Suite 333
Springfield, Illinois 62701
Telephone: (217) 522-6838
Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:   Peter L. Rotskoff

August 15, 2010 (3:51 p.m.)

JW: [Terronez!]

JT: [I have a wicked hangover]

JW: [Omg! Loook who it is! Is tht really u?!]

JT: [Funny just woke up drove home at 5am like a dumb ass]

JW: [Wowww haha]

JT: [what a night though I love my guys]

JW: [Yea watever]

JT: [Can't even remember my broads name]

JW: [Wow hahaha]

JT: [She was a freak that much I remember]

JW: [Haha weirdo]

JT: [What u do]

JW: [Stayed w my man:)]

JT: [Wow u better have an open bar at ur wedding]

JW: [Haha maybe u shud just buy me alcohol]

JT: [Alcohol doesn't even sound good rt now]

JW: [Does to me!!]

JT: [Did u drink last night]

JW: [No:( bc u weret there for me:(]

JT: [Haha u'll survive]

JW: [:(][ So can I have some now.Please:(]

JT: [I promised chb I'd make her n her roomate dinner tonight. Gettn ready to leave now.]

JW: [Soo juust get it reeeal fast.Plz! Uve bailed on me too much! And ive done a good job!]

JT: [Don't have time. I have not bailed on u! It just didn't work out this weekend.]

JW: [Pleeeasee :'( :'(]

JT: [Girl u got school tomorrow]

JW: [No i dont!]

JT: [I can't I late already I was supposed to b there by 5. I still have to go to the store to buy dinner.]

JW: [Wen ur at the store buying it! Buy the apples!]

JT: [How would I get them to u?]

JW: [Ill go to the store]

JT: [In davenport?]

JW: [No here]

JT: [I'm on my way to dport now]

JW: [Nooooo]

JT: [Soooorrrrryyyy]

JW: [Fine ill go to dport.]

JT: [Damn girl!! U need help 4 ur problem haha!!]

JW: [Lol shut up.Its been awhile][R u guna get apples]

JT: [Do u know the hyvee near txas rdhs?]

JW: [Yes]

JT: [Just remembered its sunday. They don't serve on sundays]

JW: [Omfggggg]

JT: [Sorry girl. N I'm in springfield next weekend]

JW: [Wtf! There has to be a liquor store tht open.Seriously]

JT: [Don't have time. I'm late!!][Cancelled w chb she's pissed!! I'll find ur apples…]

JW: [Okay! Yay!]

JT: [Don't feel like gettn laid tonight ne way]

JW: [Haha.]

JT: [Haha just told her ill bring a pizza later]

JW: [Ha wow.Nice!]

JT: [I can b a dick sometimes]

JW: [Tthts funny]

August 15, 2010 (6:10 p.m.)

JT: [Got them meet me at mitchell n 5]

JW: [Okay!.Im not gettig out tho bc i look scaryy]

JT: [Whatever!! I won't give them to u then…]

JW: [Ok fineee]

JT: [Haha my bitch!!]

JW: [Wateverr]

JT: [ :D][ U have now called me a dick twice!!][Btw u would of had noooo fun in san diego anyway]

August 15, 2010 (7:11 p.m.)

JW: [Haha:) ok thaanx for the apples!]

JT: [Enjoy their ur last batch from me!]

JW: [ :'(]

JT: [NOW STOP THAT!!!!]

JW: [No bc it makes me sad tht ur cutting me out:(]

JT: [Deprivation builds character]

JW: [ :( ]

JT: [NO SAD FACES!! Hey at least I'll txt "hi" to u at fball games!]

JW: [And get me booze afterwards:)]

JT: [Hahaha keep dreaming! I'm goin 2 Rocky games haha!!]

JW: [lll cut u off..Dick]

JT: [Hahaha!! Just don't cut my dick off!! I need that!!]

JW: [U gave me an idea.I shud do tht..Meanie! :(]

JT: [Omg!! Chb told me that I make her live w a broken heart everyday! Hahahaha!! How gay is that?? Hahaha!!!]

JW: [Hahahahahaha wowww]

JT: [I think she just dumped me again!??!][Yep I am now wo a woman!! Hahaha I got no game!!!!]

JW: [Ha!]