Rock Island County State’s Attorney Jeff Terronez will plead guilty today to a misdemeanor count of supplying alcohol to a minor and resign from office.
Terronez confirmed to the media Monday what had been widely reported: that he has been under investigation by Illinois State Police since August. He would not provide further details about the allegations but said more details likely will be revealed at today’s hearing.
“Look, I’m a human being. I made a mistake,” he said.
Asked whether the minor was the victim in the case of Jason Van Houtte, a United Township High School teacher and Orion High School coach who pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault of a victim, Terronez declined to say. Van Houtte is serving his sentence in Mount Sterling, Ill., with a projected parole date in 2020.
Terronez said it is possible the identity of the victim will come out during today’s plea hearing. He said he “believes” the victim was 17 years old at the time of the offense.
An 11 a.m. hearing is scheduled at the Rock Island County Justice Center before Chief Judge Jeffrey O’Connor, but no charges had been filed as of Monday.
During an interview in the Rock Island County Courthouse parking lot Monday afternoon, Terronez, wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, appeared humbled by the action taken against him.
“I let them (voters) down,” he said. “I’ve certainly let myself down, my family down. I can’t reverse it.
“I’m not feeling the greatest. I’m ashamed of what I’ve done.”
Terronez said he doesn’t think more charges will be filed in connection with the case.
“It’s my understanding that (today) is it,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan declined comment on the case Monday and confirmed only that it is scheduled for a hearing today.
Terronez said he is resigning at the request of the Attorney General’s office, which is handling the case. He said although there is no state law that requires him to do so, he thought it was the right decision.
“Quite frankly, that is the right thing to do,” he said.
Terronez has declined comment about the allegations since October. He said he wanted the investigation to be “wrapped up” before he spoke publicly about the case.
Rock Island County Board Chairman Jim Bohnsack declined to comment on Terronez’s announcement. O’Connor will make a temporary appointment to the state’s attorney position. The board chairman would make a permanent appointment within 60 days.
Terronez said he has recommended Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Senko as his replacement. He said he will submit the required paperwork to the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, which is the agency that will decide whether he is allowed to keep his license to practice law.
“I’ll be an unemployed lawyer for a while,” Terronez said.
Terronez has been state’s attorney since 2004 after he defeated four other Democrats and ran unopposed in the general election. He would have been up for election in 2012.
In October, Bohnsack said Terronez informed him of the Illinois State Police investigation in a brief telephone conversation. The State Police initially declined comment.
That same month, word of the investigation led Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride to distance his retention effort from Terronez. His campaign issued a statement in October saying Terronez was removed from campaign commercials because of a “possible investigation.” Kilbride was up for retention in the Nov. 2 election.
Following the announcement about the investigation, the Quad-City Times filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the State Police and Illinois Attorney General, seeking documents related to the investigation.
After being repeatedly rebuffed, the newspaper filed a lawsuit in March in Sangamon County seeking public records related to the investigation. Earlier this month, the Attorney General’s office replied in court documents that releasing police documents to the Quad-City Times would interfere with an active criminal investigation of Terronez.
Terronez said his plea today should end the criminal investigation and said there should no longer be any justification for denying the FOIA requests and release of police documents.
He also said he doesn’t think his actions and guilty plea will affect other cases he has prosecuted.