With a warrant out for his arrest and a need to comply with a 2012 Illinois court order related to a DUI, Vermont state Rep. Chris Bates appears to be in bigger legal trouble than he has been willing to admit publicly.
Bates, a Democrat elected in November to a Bennington 2-1 House seat, has been dodging his personal past as an alleged fugitive for months.
He moved to Vermont from Illinois in 2012, leaving behind an out-of-state criminal record of self-described youthful “indiscretions.” Alleged incidents listed in Illinois court records include resisting arrest, battery, assault with a loaded shotgun, drunk driving and failure to appear in court.
Bates’ record also includes a failure to pay fines, court costs and fees after being found guilty in 2012 for committing a Class 4 felony aggravated DUI. He apparently failed to go through an alcohol treatment program as ordered by an Illinois county court, the 22nd Judicial Circuit of McHenry County.
The Bennington Democrat, who has appeared on radio and television as an outdoor expert, may also have violated an order by the state of Illinois which said he must not have guns.
While Bates told TNR last month that he no longer uses a gun to hunt and prefers to fish instead, the Illinois court order detailing his conditional discharge in 2012 prohibits him from possessing any firearms.
The sentencing order, signed by Bates on April 12, 2012, says “the defendant shall refrain from possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapon.”
However, a photograph sent to True North Reports shows Bates holding a so-called assault rifle on April 17, 2012, just five days later.
He agreed to appear in court on Oct. 15, 2013, but when he missed the appearance a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Despite another statement in the conditional discharge that says “the defendant shall not leave the State of Illinois temporarily or permanently without the consent of the Court of the permission of the Adult Probation Division,” Bates moved to Vermont in 2012.
TNR contacted Bates last month for comments regarding these and other apparent violations of his conditional discharge. The legislator said he was busy filming an outdoor sports program but would respond at a later time.
Court Clerk Katherine Keefe of McHenry County, Illinois, offered True North few details about Bates’ missed court appearance and the subsequent arrest warrant issued in 2013.
“We would not know why Mr. Bates missed his scheduled court appearance on Oct. 15, 2013,” Keefe told TNR.
Keefe also did not indicate what action the Illinois court would take knowing that Bates moved out of state and is currently holding an elective office in Vermont.
However, Bates’ signature on the conditional discharge indicates he knew of his legal obligation to stay in Illinois and appear in court 18 months later. The Vermont lawmaker is likely to be arrested if he returns to the state or is extradited.
Police Chief Paul Doucette told Seven Days an out-of-state arrest warrant is not enforceable in Vermont “unless extradition is approved.”
According to Illinois law, extradition is “the process by which … (a) state can demand that you return for trial if you fled from justice after you were charged with treason, felony or some other crime.”
However, as with some politically charged laws in today’s legal environment, what the law says and what actually happens may be two entirely different matters.
Maxwell Taylor, a Brandon, Vermont-based attorney, has noted that law enforcement has its own set of priorities, and extradition can never be a sure thing.
“Extradition costs money,” he cautions in an online forum addressing a general process question. “If you were in charge of law enforcement, how much money would you spend to bring someone from another state … to face a disorderly conduct charge? Of course, if you were convicted of the misdemeanor, and you fled, you may face additional charges.”
According to Illinois attorney-at-law Sami Azhari, “There are two types of contempt of court recognized under Illinois law. First, a person can be guilty of civil contempt. And second, a person can be guilty of criminal contempt. … [In] Illinois, the court has the authority to sentence those people to imprisonment.”
Bates’ conditional discharge states that a failure to show up in court might result in arrest among other possible steps.
“Typically that is part of the conditions of bail,” Keefe told TNR.
Keefe also told TNR that there’s no indication Bates ever fulfilled the requirements under his conditions of bail — notably, that he was ordered by a judge to get treatment for alcoholism following his 2012 conviction on aggravated DUI.
“It’s not something we can say for sure, but we do not show any completion document filed for completion of any treatment program, so he has not yet notified the Court of his treatment completion status,” Keefe added.
Kevin Hoyt, a Bennington resident who ran for state representative against Bates in 2018, says had voters known about the Democrat’s “rap sheet,” he would never have been elected.
A long list of Bates’ various charges and related incidents run from 1979 to 2012. Court records show Bates had serious run-ins with law enforcement that were established before he relocated to the Green Mountain State:
Jan. 29, 1983: Bates charged with battery in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and resisting arrest
Aug. 21, 1985: Bates, drunk, allegedly assaults wife with loaded shotgun in Elgin, Illinois
Aug. 12, 1988: Bates, drunk, arrested for assaulting Elgin, Illinois, police officers
Feb. 14, 2004: Bates arrested for DUI in DeKalb, Illinois, blows a .16 on a Breathalyzer test
Sept. 21, 2008: Bates ticketed for driving without a valid license in Iowa
Oct. 16, 2008: Bates ticketed for driving without a valid license in Iowa
Jan. 27, 2009: Bates ticketed for driving with revoked license in Iowa
May 29, 2010: Bates arrested for aggravated DUI in Lakemoor Illinois, refuses to take DUI test
April 12, 2012: In Illinois, Bates signs felony conditional discharge order for May 29, 2010, DUI
TNR has not received a response from Bates as of the time of publication.
Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.