8th Circuit Judge Awaits Verdict from Illinois Courts Commission

By Benjamin Cox on November 11, 2023 at 7:17am

Hurry up and wait. That’s where 8th Circuit Judge Robert Adrian currently is on the verdict from the Illinois Courts Commission.

The Illinois Courts Commission, which rules on complaints against judges in the state and has the power to remove, suspend, or reprimand them, heard arguments in Chicago over two days this week regarding allegations that Judge Adrian acted with willful misconduct by throwing out his own decision to avoid sending a defendant to prison for sexual assault.

Adrian presided over a three-day bench trial in Adams County Circuit Court in October 2021 in which then-18 year old Drew Clinton of Taylor, Michigan was accused of sexually assaulting 16-year old Cameron Vaughan during a graduation party in May of that year.

Typically we do not name people who say they were sexually assaulted, especially minors, unless they come forward publicly. Vaughan and her family have come forward about the case in an effort to see Adrian held accountable for his actions and provide support to other victims of sexual assault.

Judge Adrian initially found Clinton guilty of criminal sexual assault after the 3-day bench trial in October 2021. But at Clinton’s sentencing hearing three months later, Adrian reversed his decision and said the 148 days that Clinton had spent in the Adams County Jail were punishment enough. Adrian then affixed the blame of the case on the parents who hosted the graduation party for allowing teens to swim in their underwear in a pool and consume alcohol. Adrian later said he worded his reasoning poorly in the closing remarks to the courtroom, and said that he threw out the conviction because he didn’t feel the prosecution had met the burden of proof with evidence and testimony that a sexual assault had occurred.

The Judicial Inquiry Board then filed a 3-count complaint against Judge Adrian in June 2022 saying he failed and acknowledged that he did not impose the mandatory 4-year prison sentence under Illinois law and that Adrian also retaliated against a prosecutor who had been critical of his decision on social media to vacate the conviction. The final complaint is that Adrian perjured himself in testimony to the Judicial Inquiry Board about his reasoning to vacate the conviction.

The Illinois Courts Commission heard testimony over two days this week from Adrian himself, the trial lawyers, and other members of the Adams County States Attorney’s Office.

According to the Associated Press, Elizabeth Rochford, the Illinois Supreme Court justice appointed to the Courts Commission in this case, said after the closing arguments that the seven-member commission would take the information from the hearing “under advisement.” She did not indicate when or how a ruling would be issued.

Adrian could potentially face a formal reprimand to being completely removed from the bench.

Adrian retained his seat as a circuit judge in the Eighth Judicial Circuit during the November 2022 election. He needed 60% of the vote to be retained, and received about 62%. Adams County, the largest county in the circuit and Adrian’s home county, was the only one of the 8 counties he lost. He managed to surpass 60% in the other 7 counties and hit the 80% mark in Menard and Mason counties.