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Crime & Courts

Judge will consider Ridulph’s request for special prosecutor in McCullough case

DeKalb County Judge William Brady looks at Charles Ridulph's attorney Bruce Brandwein (right) on Tuesday while asking about the formal hearing date that will work with his schedule and the witnesses after denying DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack's (left) request to limit the testimony in court at the DeKalb County Courthouse. A hearing will be allowed to determine whether Schmack made statements that compromised his impartiality regarding Jack McCullough's conviction and recent release from prison.
DeKalb County Judge William Brady looks at Charles Ridulph's attorney Bruce Brandwein (right) on Tuesday while asking about the formal hearing date that will work with his schedule and the witnesses after denying DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack's (left) request to limit the testimony in court at the DeKalb County Courthouse. A hearing will be allowed to determine whether Schmack made statements that compromised his impartiality regarding Jack McCullough's conviction and recent release from prison.

SYCAMORE – A DeKalb judge will allow a hearing to determine whether DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack made statements that compromised his objectivity in Jack McCullough’s prison release.

On Tuesday, DeKalb County Judge William Brady denied Schmack’s request to bar testimony from the brother of 1957 murder victim Maria Ridulph, and chose to move forward with a formal hearing regarding alleged statements made by the state’s attorney.

Maria Ridulph’s older brother, Charles Ridulph, claimed in May that Schmack promised during the 2012 campaign to drop murder charges against Jack McCullough. McCullough was convicted in 2012 of abducting Maria, 7, from near her Sycamore home and killing her. The conviction was upheld on appeal. Brady agreed with Schmack’s request to dismiss murder charges against McCullough, 76, in April.

At an evidentiary hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 5, Brandwein will try to prove Schmack’s involvement in the 59-year-old cold case is undermined by a campaign promise.

The attorney will call Charles Ridulph and former Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Trevarthen as witnesses, he said. Ogle County State’s Attorney Eric Morrow has agreed to cross-examine Schmack and other witnesses in place of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney if the situation arises.

Trevarthen said she “heard Mr. Schmack state that if elected as state’s attorney he would dismiss the murder charges,” court documents show.

“[Charles Ridulph] is going to be able to tell his side of the story and whether we win or lose, he’s going to get his side of the story out,” Brandwein said after court Tuesday.

In a statement filed Monday, Schmack said he acted only within the obligations of his role as state’s attorney.

Although he does remember being in the courthouse’s attorney lounge in the summer of 2012, when he is accused of having declared McCullough’s innocence, he never said the former Seattle cop shouldn’t be tried, Schmack wrote.

“No one, myself included, expressed the view that the FBI had necessarily been right, or that the trial should not proceed,” Schmack said.

He also remembers meeting with Charles Ridulph in 2014 and talking about scenarios in which the case could be returned for retrial, and and errors that the appellate defender would claim occurred.

“It was my opinion at the time that should the case be returned for retrial in that posture, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a conviction,” Schmack said. “I did candidly advise Charles Ridulph of my opinion.”

Should Brady find Schmack did have any conflict of interest in the case, the judge could appoint a special prosecutor to review Schmack’s finding that the charges against McCullough should be dismissed, Brandwein said.

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