SYCAMORE – A DeKalb County judge is giving embattled Kingston Township Tax Assessor Jennifer D. Cleveland “the benefit of the doubt” after she didn’t show up in court Friday morning.
DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Maribeth Ennis told Judge Philip Montgomery she’d spoken with Cleveland’s lawyer, R. James Haule, leading up to the hearing, but that she never saw Cleveland.
Cleveland, 49, of the 34700 block of Glidden Road, Kingston, is charged with forgery, official misconduct and failure of a local assessment officer to perform duties. If convicted of either forgery or official misconduct, she could face two to five years in prison, and that any prison sentence would be followed by a year of parole.
Ennis told Montgomery that she and Haule discussed a potential plea deal and agreed on a next court date of March 6, but at no point was it discussed that Cleveland didn’t need to appear in court at 9 a.m. for her hearing, already rescheduled from Jan. 26 when Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert approved pushing the date back because Cleveland would be on vacation in Jamaica.
Montgomery continued the case until March 6.
“I’m going to give Ms. Cleveland the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “Based on reports I’ve seen in the media, she is in the area.”
Cleveland did not attend a hearing Wednesday before the county’s Board of Review at which her son, Tanner, asked the board to restore his property value to the amount to which his mother had it changed.
Illinois State Police said in court records that on Aug. 25, Jennifer Cleveland filed a request to reduce the assessed value of “her son’s newly bought property” in the 8700 block of South Rood Road in Kingston, and also filed two requests to reduce the assessed value of the property because of destruction to the property. Police said Jennifer Cleveland signed the former property owner’s name on the documents, which were filed Sept. 21 and Oct. 23, according to the records.
Jennifer Cleveland first was elected Kingston Township assessor in April 2013, running unopposed. She was re-elected in April, again without an opponent. She posted $200 bail Nov. 21, records show. If convicted of a felony, she will be ineligible to hold office under Illinois law.
Jennifer Cleveland only has appeared in court once on her charges, Nov. 29, and hasn’t yet filed a plea.