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Crime & Courts

Former assessor seeks to withdraw guilty plea in corruption case

With new attorney, Cleveland wants to undo admission of forgery, official misconduct

Former Kingston Township Assessor Jennifer Cleveland and her attorney Liam Dixon listen to DeKalb County Judge Philip Montgomery during a hearing Tuesday at the courthouse. Cleveland is hoping to have her guilty plea to charges of forgery and official misconduct vacated.
Former Kingston Township Assessor Jennifer Cleveland and her attorney Liam Dixon listen to DeKalb County Judge Philip Montgomery during a hearing Tuesday at the courthouse. Cleveland is hoping to have her guilty plea to charges of forgery and official misconduct vacated.

SYCAMORE – A former Kingston Township assessor who pleaded guilty in March to forgery and official misconduct is looking to withdraw her plea, but first her lawyer must amend a previous request.

Jennifer Cleveland was in court Tuesday with a new attorney, Liam Dixon. Cleveland’s previous attorney, Riley Oncken, filed a motion to withdraw the plea April 18, but prosecutors said it was insufficient.

Oncken had replaced R. James Haule as Cleveland’s attorney shortly before the March agreement.

Dixon said he will file a new request to withdraw the plea. If a judge approves, the case could go to trial. If not, he said he and Cleveland would have to discuss options.

Illinois State Police said in county court records that on Aug. 25, 2017, Cleveland filed a request to reduce the assessed value of her son’s newly purchased 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 Cleveland signed the former property owner’s name on the documents, which were filed Sept. 21, 2017, and Oct. 23, 2017, according to the records.

Cleveland was elected Kingston Township assessor in April 2013, running unopposed. She was reelected in April 2017, again without an opponent. She posted $200 bail Nov. 21, 2017, records show.

Cleveland resigned as the Kingston Township assessor in March when she first pleaded guilty. A felony conviction would make her ineligible to hold office. The most serious charges, forgery and official misconduct, can be punished by probation or two to five years in prison.

Assistant State’s Attorney Brooks Locke said back-and-forth pleading by defendants is uncommon, but not unheard of. He said there was not a complete plea deal in place and a hearing was going to determine Cleveland’s sentence.

Cleveland is next due in court on July 17 for a hearing on her request to withdraw her guilty plea.

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