With a potentially final status hearing before an Illinois judge now scheduled for December, state Rep. Chris Bates says that his legal woes stemming from a 2012 court order are nearing an end.
The hearing, scheduled for Dec. 9 at the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of McHenry County, appears to be the last one addressing the lawmaker’s failure to comply with conditions set by a sentencing order related to a Class 4 felony aggravated DUI.
Specifically, Bates failed to go through a court-ordered alcohol treatment program, skipped an October 2013 court appearance, and didn’t pay various fines, court costs and fees.
On July 1, Bates’ attorney, Jeffrey Altman, of the law firm Donahue and Walsh P.C., filed a motion to “recall and quash” an earlier warrant for the legislator’s arrest. Two days later, Judge Michael E. Coppedge granted Bates’ motion with the proviso that the attorney appear in court on Aug. 9 for a status conference in order to get updated information.
In an interview last week with TNR, Bates said he believes he has met all of the judge’s requirements.
“It is all behind me now. I have a few hours of (alcohol counseling) to finish up now,” he said. “After my 20 hours are done, things are completely dropped and everything is back to normal.”
Altman said in a recent court statement that Bates paid a final due amount of $400 and received an alcohol evaluation through United Counseling Service, a treatment provider in the state of Vermont.
But Assistant Illinois State’s Attorney Susanne Groebner, who appeared in court on behalf of the plaintiff, expressed skepticism during a July hearing before the judge.
“[Bates] was found to be high risk with 75 hours of treatment necessary, and now all of a sudden he gets another evaluation that says he’s in remission and that he doesn’t need any treatment. But still, the court’s order was that he complete 75 hours of treatment,” Groebner told the judge.
Bates’ recent legal woes began when the court granted him a conditional discharge on April 12, 2012. The court order came with numerous conditions, including a prohibition against leaving the state of Illinois “temporarily or permanently without the consent of the Court of the permission of the Adult Probation Division.” Bates subsequently moved to Vermont without alerting the Illinois court.
The order also barred Bates from “possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapon.” Within five days of signing the 2012 discharge, Bates was photographed holding a semi-automatic rifle in a time-stamped digital photograph.
The Bennington Democrat has a long criminal record that includes charges of battery, drunk driving, driving without a license and failure to appear in court. The state of Illinois issued an arrest warrant for Bates when he missed the court appearance scheduled on Oct. 15, 2013.
Three years later, on Oct. 16, 2017, Illinois filed an amended petition for revocation of Bates’ 2012 conditional discharge, stating that Bates violated the conditions of his discharge.
However, as of the Aug. 9 hearing, the Illinois court is requiring just 20 hours of intensive alcohol-abuse counseling and treatment, not the original 75 hours.
Bates told TNR that all his legal matters were now behind him.
“I was evaluated by two (professionals) and found to be ‘no risk’ at all, but the state of Illinois wants me to take a crash course here in Vermont,” he said. “And then that’s the end of it. … Everything is dropped.”
Bates said he is paying the price for past personal actions.
“Had I paid the fine none of this would have happened,” he said.
While Bates told TNR earlier this year that he had no interest in seeking reelection, he now appears to be rethinking the idea.
“I can’t look into the future,” he noted. “I have to see where I am at the end of the (next legislative) session.”
He added that he is not required to return to Illinois for the Dec. 9 status conference.
“I don’t have to go back to Illinois — ever. Good riddance,” Bates said.
Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at email@example.com.