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Crime & Courts

Former Kingston Township Assessor Jennifer Cleveland pleads guilty to forgery, misconduct

She also has resigned as township assessor

SYCAMORE – A township assessor accused of forging documents to secure a property tax break for her son pleaded guilty Tuesday and could face two to five years in prison.

Kingston Township Assessor Jennifer Cleveland, 50, was convicted Tuesday of forgery and official misconduct. She’s also officially resigned as assessor, her lawyer confirmed. The felony convictions make her ineligible to serve.

Cleveland, of the 34700 block of Glidden Road, Kingston, was charged in 2017 with forgery, official misconduct and failure of a local assessment officer to perform duties.

Assistant State’s Attorney Brooks Locke, who prosecuted the case, said the sentences likely would be served simultaneously. She’ll be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. May 14. A presentencing investigation will be conducted to guide DeKalb County Judge Philip Montgomery in his sentencing.

State’s Attorney Rick Amato said DeKalb County Assessor Robin Brunschon will be among the witnesses called during the sentencing hearing, for which Montgomery said he has the whole afternoon blocked off, but Amato said he can’t comment further on the case.

Cleveland also will be ineligible to hold office under Illinois law. Her lawyer, Riley Oncken, filed paperwork at the DeKalb County Courthouse making that no longer an issue, when Cleveland appeared before Montgomery, who accepted the plea Tuesday. The most serious charges, forgery and official misconduct, can be punished by probation or two to five years in prison.

Cleveland anxiously crossed her left leg over her right and worked her right foot nervously as Montgomery explained the constitutional rights she was giving up by waiving her right to a trial. A jury trial was set for April 23.

Cleveland and Oncken declined to comment.

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 and Oct. 23, 2017, according to the records.

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

Brunschon said the Kingston Township Board must now appoint a new assessor, who must be a state-certified assessing official.

Oncken recently replaced R. James Haule as Cleveland’s lawyer and wouldn’t say why. There’s no indication in court records as to why Haule withdrew from the case.

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