Circuit Judge recuses himself from case involving Winchester city employee

By Blake Schnitker on May 23 at 12:26pm

The Circuit Judge in the case against a Winchester City employee accused of stealing over $500 in government funds is recusing himself from the case following a court appearance earlier this week.

Judge David Cherry of the Seventh Circuit Court of Illinois officially announced that he will not hear the case involving Barbara Hoots, who faces allegations of theft of more than $500 but less than $10-thousand dollars in government funds, as well as official misconduct in conjunction with the alleged theft.

Judge Cherry recused himself from the case at a hearing in Scott County Court on Monday. During that hearing, Hoots appeared along with her Defense Attorney Richard Crews of Thomson, McNeely, Crews, Hurst & Thielen P.C. in Jacksonville. Scott County State’s Attorney Michael Hill was also present representing the prosecution.

As for Judge Cherry’s decision to recuse himself from the case, State’s Attorney Hill says that Cherry did not give any specific reason for doing so, and explains where things currently stand.

“On Monday, the Judge gave the admonishments, which is, he explained what the charges were and the possible penalties and made sure that the defendant understood that. Once that was done, the judge then decided to recuse himself, which means he’s not going to hear the case. There are several reasons why (judges do this)…he didn’t give (a reason) on the record, and he’s not required to, but sometimes there’s a conflict of interest, sometimes they have business dealings with a person that may be a defendant. I don’t know what (the reason) is in this case, but those are just examples, but then the case is sent to the Chief Judge of the Circuit to be assigned to another judge,” Hill explains.

State’s Attorney Hill goes over the possible penalties that Hoots faces in this case.

“She’s charged currently with a Class 2 felony for theft of governmental property over $500, and then official misconduct based on the theft, and that’s a Class 3 felony. The Class 2 felony is punishable by three to seven years in the Department of Corrections with two years of mandatory supervised release, and then a possible of up to four years probation or conditional discharge. The Class 3 felony is two to five years in the Department of Correction, and the same probation is available for thirty months, with one year of (mandatory supervised release),” says Hill.

In terms of where the case will go from here and when the next possible hearing will be, Hill explains that they will have to wait for another Chief Judge to be assigned to the case.

“Everything’s waiting to determine which judge (the case) will be assigned to and then we’ll have to work with that judge to schedule everything else. As far as having a time frame for that assignment to take place, we don’t really (have an exact answer). It’s (determined) by when the Chief Judge gets (the case), looks at the conflict, and then looks at the conflict, looks at the situation and makes a decision,” HIll explains.

It remains unclear at this time specifically why Judge Cherry recused himself from this particular case. There are also no indications yet as to which Chief Judge could be assigned to hear the case moving forward.