Scott County State’s Attorney Michael Hill speaks on Barbara Hoots case

By Blake Schnitker on July 13 at 3:15pm

The case against a Winchester city employee over a year in the making is apparently not going to be continued after the Scott County State’s Attorney filed a special legal equivalent of a motion to dismiss.

Barbara Hoots, who currently serves as Winchester’s Deputy Clerk and city collector, was arrested on April 12 and accused of official misconduct. Hoots had apparently taken $1,557 from the city of Winchester between May 12 and December 28 of last year while acting in her official work capacity.

Scott County State’s Attorney Michael Hill has been leading the charge to prove there was a crime committed. However, when Seventh Circuit Judge David Cherry recused himself from Hoots’s case in late May and new evidence was found, the case unraveled and Attorney Hill struggled to keep the case in court. Hill enlisted a grand jury to review the entire case and determine whether there was probable cause for the case against Hoots to continue. Hill says that the grand jury deliberated for less than a half hour.

“When the original charges… committed a crime.”

Hill understands that Winchester residents have been concerned that the case would not be seen to fruition, but he explains that, as of this moment, the current evidence cannot guarantee Hoots’s guilt.

“The public was really paying attention, and rightfully so. I believe there was an incident in which some money was taken from the city of Winchester, but I simply do not have enough evidence to proceed. what you’re supposed to do. If something does come up, I will absolutely reopen the case, because the only way to trust the processes of public officials and city government and the judicial system is for these entities to provide complete transparency and follow through on what they are supposed to do.”

May of 2017 begins the time frame when Hoots is accused of taking money from the city of Winchester. Hill says the case can be reopened before May 2020 if any pertinent evidence is released.

“It’s a three-year statute. In fact, the statute of limitations for most felonies in Illinois is three years.”

There is no word yet as to whether Barbara Hoots will be returning to work in the coming weeks.