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Prosecutors want Supreme Court to halt handover of jail recordings in fatal DUI

Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to undo a judge’s order to deliver hundreds of jailhouse recordings to the attorney of a Steger man who was convicted of killing a 5-year-old boy in a drunken driving crash last year.

Judge Edward Burmila decided last month those tapes should have been given to 24-year-old Cecil Conner and his attorney, Jeff Tomczak, ahead of Conner’s trial. Tomczak has said he is particularly interested in recorded conversations between Conner and the boy’s mother, Kathie LaFond.

In their motion, though, prosecutors said Burmila erred when he said they had “possession and control” of the recordings made by the Will County sheriff. Though Burmila decided the sheriff is an agent of the state’s attorney, prosecutors said they don’t have access to the jail or its files without the sheriff’s permission.

Jailhouse recordings have been turned over as evidence in other criminal cases. For example, Drew Peterson attorney Joel Brodsky said hundreds of recorded conversations were turned over after his client was charged with murder in Will County.

“The state’s attorney obviously had no problem getting a hold of Drew’s records,” Brodsky said.

But Conner’s prosecutors have said neither they nor the lead detective investigating his case listened to his recordings. They said Conner’s phone calls were only accessed two times — after his trial — when they were picked at random for a Will County sheriff’s deputy’s training session.

They also said Burmila’s ruling is unworkable, because Will County inmates place about 1,200 calls a day. Other counties are just as problematic, they said.

According to affidavits filed with the motion, Cook County inmates make about 40,000 calls each day, and McHenry County inmates make more than 500 a day. Kane County inmates placed 943 calls one day this month, and DuPage County inmates made 108,000 calls between Sept. 18 and Oct. 18.

Conner made 2,350 phone calls between May 10, 2010, and June 1, 2011, a jail official testified, but Burmila only ordered prosecutors to hand over tapes from May 10, 2010 until February 2011.

A jury convicted Conner in February for aggravated driving under the influence. LaFond was driving Conner home from a party in May 2010 with her 5-year-old son, Michael Langford Jr., in the back seat when a Chicago Heights police officer stopped the car. He arrested LaFond for driving with a suspended license and let Conner drive away.

The officer said Conner didn’t appear drunk, but Conner’s attorneys have said the officer threatened to arrest him if he didn’t drive the car home. A blood test later found Conner’s blood-alcohol level was 0.208, roughly 2-1/2 times the legal limit.

Shortly after the traffic stop, Conner drove the car into a tree on Steger Road near Carpenter street, killing the boy.

Burmila stayed his ruling until Monday, when Conner is expected to be back in court. Tomczak said he was surprised by the motion, and he said he’ll research whether prosecutors have a right to file it.

“We may well be wasting a significant amount of tax dollars,” Tomczak said.