UPDATE: Jeff Terronez’s attorney, Warren Lupel of Chicago, responded to a request for comment on the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission hearing board’s decision released on Friday. The hearing board recommended that Terronez’s law license be suspended for two years, and the commission immediately appealed the decision.

Lupel’s comment: “I have no specific comment since the ARDC has already publicly announced their decision to appeal. Mr. Terronez and I while disappointed that the ARDC believes that the time and substantial expense involved in an appeal is warranted given the enormous adverse consequences to all concerned including the lives of family, friends and the people in the underlying matter, he will of course be unable to make any plans for his future until the appeal process has been concluded.”


Terronez panel calls for suspension

By Barb Ickes

ORIGINAL STORY: A disciplinary panel’s recommendation that former Rock Island County State’s Attorney Jeff Terronez’s law license be suspended until October 2013 already is being appealed.

Just hours after a three-member hearing board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission submitted its report on the Terronez case Friday, the ARDC vowed to continue to push for his disbarment.

Neither Terronez nor his attorney, Warren Lupel, returned phone calls seeking comment.

In an April hearing in Springfield, three attorneys who make up the board heard arguments on the ARDC’s two-count complaint against Terronez, 41, who pleaded guilty a year earlier to buying alcohol for a minor. He was sentenced to two years of probation and was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine, plus court costs, and agreed to forfeit his pension and never run for public office again.

The hearing board recommends disciplinary action to the Illinois Supreme Court, and its findings were released Friday in a 26-page report.

The minor in the Terronez alcohol-delivery case was the victim in the sexual-assault case against Jason Van Houtte of Moline. The former high school teacher and coach now is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

Terronez prosecuted Van Houtte in 2009, meeting the victim one month after she turned 16. He said he continued a relationship with the girl after Van Houtte’s conviction, so he could look out for her best interests.

She is identified in court records as JW.

At his April hearing, however, Terronez, who is married, also said he used his relationship with JW to get closer to one of her 19-year-old friends. On the witness stand, he sobbed as he admitted he had been physically attracted to the other girl, identified as BY.

Despite his admission, the hearing board’s report states, “… his use of JW as an intermediary to gain access to her friends was not clearly established by the evidence.”

The report also indicates the panelists regarded Terronez’s sexually explicit texts to the sex-assault victim and his taking the two teens to a hotel in Champaign as “exceedingly poor judgment,” which did not rise to the level of overreaching, as the ARDC had argued.

Terronez admitted to sending more than 1,000 text messages to JW, including references to her sexual activity with her boyfriend. He also told her that she was “incredibly cute,” that he might be falling in love with her and that he “couldn’t think straight” after seeing a picture of her in her United Township High School cheerleading uniform.

Terronez, however, “explained he was teasing JW and joking around with her” and “admitted the messages were entirely inappropriate, and he regrets sending them,” the hearing board reports states.

Terronez also told JW he was divorced and admitted to creating fictionalized women for the purpose of seeming younger to the girl.

However, the hearing board categorized those claims as “puffery or exaggeration” that did not rise to the level of an ethical violation.

In its complaint, the ARDC also accused Terronez of lying to police in an effort to obstruct their investigation into his relationship with JW, which included allegations he bought alcohol for her.

“He stated his purpose was to keep the information from his wife, because he was not ready to admit his despicable conduct to her,” the report states. “He noted his conduct has had an adverse impact on his marriage and on his relationship with his daughter, who was 12 years old at the time.”

The hearing board report indicates the panelists did not believe that Terronez was merely buying time to disclose his actions to his family. He not only lied to police during questioning Aug. 20, 2011, the panelists pointed out, but he continued to lie during an interview on Aug. 24.

“… he then had several days to apprise his family of the situation,” the report states. “His failure to do so and his continued litany of lies on Aug. 24 point to the fact he was trying to protect himself,” constituting dishonest conduct.

The hearing board’s recommendation that Terronez’s law license be suspended for two years, retroactive to the interim suspension that was approved by the Illinois Supreme Court on Oct. 12, 2011, represents a considerable departure from the full disbarment that the ARDC had sought.

The panelists said, however, he “spoke convincingly of his immeasurable regret and eternal shame,” and he poses no threat of future harm to the public, among other mitigating factors.

The hearing board also pointed out: “The misconduct that we have found, however, is of a very serious nature.”

• “By failing to curtail his own criminal conduct while at the same time directing the prosecution of other individuals, (Terronez) failed to ensure that the laws were enforced with an even hand, thus causing the administration of justice to be prejudiced,” states the report, regarding the finding that Terronez’s conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice, as claimed in Count I.

• “When an attorney fails to cooperate with a police investigation and overtly attempts to conceal his conduct with lies and false scenarios, the reputation of the legal profession is clearly jeopardized. When that attorney is an elected official, entrusted to prosecute dishonest behavior, the damage is even greater,” states the report, regarding the finding that Terronez engaged in conduct that tends to prejudice the administration of justice and bring the legal profession into disrepute, as claimed in Count II.

Rock Island County Circuit Judge Walter Braud was one of six character witnesses to testify on Terronez’s behalf.

“We also agree with Judge Braud’s assessment that (Terronez’s) rapid rise to a position of power at a fairly young age most likely played a role in his reckless decisions,” the panelists wrote. “His fall from that position, therefore, will constantly remind him of the need to consider the ethical implications of his actions and to proceed with caution and forethought.”

Terronez was about a month shy of turning 33 when he first was elected Rock Island County state’s attorney in 2004. He was 40 at the time of his guilty plea and resignation in April 2011.

With the appeal of the hearing board’s decision, the matter next will be taken up by the ARDC’s appellate tribunal, the review board.


 

Previous story: Former Rock Island County State’s Attorney Jeff Terronez will have his law license back in about a year if the Illinois Supreme Court follows the recommendation made today by a hearing board of the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission.

The three members of the panel indicated they were in agreement with Rock Island Circuit Judge Walter Braud, who testified on Terronez’s behalf during an April hearing in Springfield. Braud said the 41-year-old’s rapid rise to a position of power played a role in his reckless decisions, and the panelists agreed, according to the report.

Quad-City Times staff is working on more complete coverage of the hearing board’s 26-page report.

(19) comments

SGlazer

Shame on you Jeff Terronez! You are a predator. You should be in jail like you would have condemned any other pervert you prosecuted. God will judge you. Your wife and children will certainly judge you. The ARDC should hold you to the highest standards, thus you should be disbarred. You should be a registered sex offender and have to go door to door around your neighborhood and let everyone know your a petterass.

qcgrandma

where did it say jeff had sex with this girl..why should he have to register. i believe in the usa your inocent untill proven guilty. yes he gave alchol to a minor, thats not a sex act, yes there was 2 girls involved. ones 19 thats not illegal.everyone want to think it was the 16 year old. you assume it was the 16 he was after.

iowalittledog

Good oh boy protecting their friends. What a joke. Anyone and I do mean anyone else would be in jail. A judge should not be a witness in this case. If that judge felt that good about this guy, then I'm sure the judge would rule for time to time in the favor of this former attorney. The fact he was an attorney means he should have been held to a higher standard. The good news is that he is lucky it was not my daughter. Wouldn't be no need for a hearing for him, maybe me but not him. I need to see a photo of this girl she must be a bad mama jama to cost too men their careers. For all you young men out their stay away from this girl, she is clearly not a take home to mom kinda girl.

DustinCOliver

Some of you need to re-read the story. Your anger at the ARDC is misplaced. The three-member hearing board were not members of the ARDC. The ARDC was acting as prosecuter in this hearing. The hearing board's findings are not binding. The Illinois Supreme Court makes the final decision on his discipline. The ARDC is vowing to keep trying to get him disbarred. If you're angry at the hearing board, fine. But the ARDC is not the ones that made the decision you don't like. The ARDC wants him to lose his law license permanently.

Over taxed

Here are the board members: http://www.isba.org/committees/ardc

Here is a link to contact them: http://www.iardc.org/howtocontact_orginfo.html

qcgrandma

if you knew jeff terroez you would know he's a good man who made a bad choice who has paid dearly for his mistakes. I believe jeff deserves a second chance because he knows what he did was wrong and will admit he was wrong.I believe Jeff will use better judgement, and this will never happen again. it's up to Jeff now to prove he has learned and will never will never happen again.Ive made lots of mistakes in my past and ive learned from them. im a better person today because i learned from those mistakes.i think it's time to sit back and let Jeff prove himself. best of luck jeff your a good man...

Bobaloo

Somehow, I think this decision – which, grudgingly, we must accept and respect – smacks of the sanctions handed down by the NCAA to Penn State. Hurt them, make them sweat for a few years, then let them back out.

I can understand and respect qcgrandma's logic, insomuch that once Mr. Terronez reapplies for (and probably ultimately gets) his law license back, he'll have to prove himself and show that he deserves his clients' trust once again. If what qcgrandma says is true, Mr. Terronez will never make the same kind of mistakes again and socialize with a client he was trying to protect.

I think the point that many of the people on here are trying to make is that, in Mr. Terronez's case, he had a very special kind of trust he needed to uphold. Let's forget about what may or may not have happened when he and the girl were alone; we'll probably never know what actually occurred. But even if nothing sexual did happen, I think it's the fact that he socialized with her, thus creating a conflict of interest and creating the appearance of impropriety.

Even with Mr. VanHoutte being convicted of having sex with an underage girl, he does have certain rights in court, and one of those is to be prosecuted by an attorney who upholds and stands by his oath to protect the law, and there's no appearance of impropriety or jeopardizing his rights or his clients' rights (the latter being the victim).

So he's getting his license back in a year (probably). Well, all I can say is, please take qcgrandma's advice to heart. You apparently are very lucky to get this mulligan.

Nate Sprott
Nate Sprott

I am all about second chances yet I cut a little short when it comes to sexual offenders sure he was never charged but he could have been. The DA of RI county is texting a 16 year old hundreds of times and he is just getting a suspension. I could see if he was just a basic lawyer. He was an elected official sworn to be RI county top cop and he is just getting a suspension. outrages. He should never practice law again. He should be thanking god everynight he is not in prison right now. This young lady should take Terreonez to court and sue him for everything he gots. I hope he has learned I want him to better himself. He dosnt have to practice law he could get a factory job or something. Work with some of the people he probably put behind bars.

qcgrandma

Nate giving alchol to minors is not a sexual act. ya there was sexual texing but he was commenting to JW about her and her boyfreind. there was a second girl envolved she was 19 thats not against the law if he was with her she's of age. every one wants to jump to conclusion that he was with with JW when in fact there was a 19 girl there also.we do not know all the facts so we cant jump conclusion.Is there any thing in your life that you wish you take back. Jeff has been giving a second chance it's up to him to prove himself, im sure he will.

Six_String
Six_String

Yeah... Alcohol, hotel rooms, anyone else besides someone connected to the legal system would've been tried & convicted of something more than "providing alcohol."

banned123

You take two young girls out of town, to a motel, and buy them liquor, and send them sexually explicit texts, we all know what he planned to do. Just because he didn't have the game to seal the deal doesn't mean he wasn't trying.

banned123

How many other good men who made a bad choice are serving prison sentences now because of Teronez, while he gets his hand gently slapped. Good ol' boy politics.

Addios Cocktail Crowd

Walter Braud needs to be replaced for his recommendation. I wonder if any of the panel members would let their daughters near this guy?

rando

Is that when she'll be legal?

banned123

I hope every defense attorney in RI county reminds the jury at every trial about this.

news-news

Mayb Rita Cronwell could use this defense also. didn't she start her job at a young age?

juicy

What in the world are they thinking? We live in America. You don't deserve second chances here, right?

george the barber
george the barber

".....rapid rise to a position of power....."
Even Al Capone could have used this excuse for some of his decisions. Un-believable ! The usual good old boy Rock Island County politics in action, but this is a very bad reflection on the judge.


Weltonian

Ya gotta be kidding me.

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