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Crime & Courts

Perjury complaint languishes for lack of prosecutor in McCullough case

SYCAMORE – Allegations of police perjury and other possible wrongdoing in the prosecution of Jack D. McCullough are going uninvestigated because no one is willing to take the case, records show.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office and prosecutors from nine Illinois counties have declined to look into the allegations, which arose last year after McCullough’s conviction was vacated in the 1957 murder of Maria Ridulph, 7, of Sycamore.

Former DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack asked a DeKalb County judge in August to have a special prosecutor investigate whether a Seattle police detective committed perjury, as well as other possible police misconduct in the prosecution of McCullough.

In response to a request for a status update on progress in that case, DeKalb County Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert filed documents showing her efforts to find someone to take the case.

Stuckert wrote to the Attorney General’s Office and prosecutors in Kendall, Ogle, Lake, Winnebago and Kane counties in August asking whether they would act as a special prosecutor. None took the case.

In October, the judge reached out to prosecutors in Boone, Whiteside, Bureau and Lee counties.

Again, there were no takers. Several prosecutors who responded to the request cited limited resources for turning it down.

The judge is required by state law to first ask public agencies to serve as a special prosecutor at no cost to the county before appointing a private attorney, according to the judge’s letters.

McCullough’s son-in-law, Casey Porter, has been seeking answers about the status of the case. He filed a motion to that aim earlier this month. Stuckert set the matter for a status review Jan. 30.

At the time he filed the motion, Schmack said video evidence contradicted statements made both by DeKalb County prosecutors and by Seattle Police Detective Irene Lau in pretrial proceedings and McCullough’s September 2012 trial.

“Any prosecution of Detective Lau would almost certainly involve inquiry into the handling of the entire investigation and prosecution of Jack D. McCullough, and such inquiry would clearly involve interviews with past, and perhaps current, employees of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office,” Schmack wrote in the request. “… There exists an actual conflict of interest in said office investigating its own conduct, since such an investigation could conceivably lead to wrongdoing by others beyond the allegations against Detective Lau.”

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato, who unseated Schmack in the November election, said that because the request mentioned “current employees” of the office, he couldn’t investigate it, either. He said it would be up to a judge – rather than his office – to find an attorney to take the case.

McCullough was freed last April, his conviction vacated and the charges against him dismissed after Schmack determined that phone records and FBI documents from 1957 and 1958 proved McCullough was in Rockford and could not have been in Sycamore on Dec. 3, 1957, at the time Ridulph was abducted from the corner of Archie Place and Center Cross Street, near her home.

McCullough is seeking a certificate of innocence from a judge. That matter is due in court for a status hearing Jan. 30.

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