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McHenry County's top prosecutor files defamation suit over blog comments

By Jonathan Bilyk | Dec 30, 2013

McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi has filed a defamation suit over comments posted on a local political blog that accuse him of corruption and criminal acts.

Bianchi, the county’s top prosecutor since 2004, brought the complaint Dec. 20 in Chicago’s federal court against a potential “John Doe" defendant who posts on McHenry County Blog under the pseudonym “Fukoku Kyohei."

And late last week, he asked a judge for approval to conduct "limited, expedited discovery for purposes of issuing subpoenas to third parties seeking information that would identify the defendant."

"Absent the ability to proceed with expedited discovery, the Plaintiff will be unable to determine the Defendant’s identity," the Dec. 27 motion states. "Moreover, without expedited discovery, the very evidence that could identify the Defendant may be destroyed."

A hearing over this motion has been set for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 8 before U.S. District Judge Joan B. Gottschall, electronic court records show.

In his suit, Bianchi alleges that comments posted by the unknown defendant represent “intentional efforts to cause harm by defaming him online” and have hurt his reputation by falsely insinuating he took a bribe in exchange for a reduced sentence, embezzled funds and required his employees to engage in campaign business.

Filed by Chicago attorney Charles Lee Mudd Jr., Bianchi’s complaint notes that while the defendant’s gender and identity are unknown, it uses male pronouns for purposes of simplicity and believes he is a citizen of Japan.

The prosecutor’s lawsuit stems from comments posted on within the last six months.

The blog delivers and discusses news focusing on political events and personalities in Chicago’s far northwest suburbs. It also features a comments section in which readers are permitted to post statements under assumed monikers.

The suit comes as the latest twist in a legal saga that has embroiled Bianchi since 2007.

In 2011, Bianchi was cleared of charges that were brought after a former employee of the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office accused him in 2007 of requiring her to do campaign work in violation of Illinois law.

A Winnebago County judge acquitted Bianchi of the charges in two trials, both times clearing him of wrongdoing before he even presented his case.

In the months since, Bianchi has sued the former special prosecutors who brought the case. According to published media reports, one of special prosecutors, Henry “Skip” Tonigan, agreed to pay $157,000 to settle his part of the matter without having to admit any wrongdoing.

And in October, Bianchi brought contempt of court charges against Thomas McQueen, another one of the special prosecutors who he claims withheld evidence that could have supported his case.

Public reaction over the matter has continued, however, including on McHenry County Blog.

In his suit against “John Doe,” Bianchi asserts he is not suing an individual who has posted one or two online comments, but is pursuing the unknown defendant “for engaging in a concerted campaign to destroy [his] reputation and career by posting more than 30 defamatory statements.”

Bianchi specifically notes that the commenter refers to him regularly as “Mr. Corruption” in his posts.

In July, the suit states, the commenter used the blog to assert that Bianchi cut a deal with a politically connected teacher, identified as “Jack Pickup” to reduce a charge of felony sexual exploitation of a minor to misdemeanor harassment.

This same commenter in October allegedly posted a statement to the blog that accused Bianchi of requiring his staffers to attend a fundraiser for a candidate for the McHenry County sheriff.

And in November, Bianchi asserts comments posted by the same user, “Fukoku Kyohei,” reiterated claims surrounding “Jack Pickup” and stated that “Mr. Corruption embezzled $2,907.94 from the Citizens to Elect Louis Bianchi” to purchase food for the sheriff’s candidate’s fundraiser event.

Bianchi notes that these types of defamatory comments have continued as recently as Dec. 19.

In his suit, Bianchi denies that he engaged in any of the actions alleged by the commenter and asserts he has “performed his duties" as state's attorney "thoroughly, honestly and with integrity."

Bianchi contends that the statements posted by the unknown defendant could cause some reading the blog to question his personal and professional integrity and conclude he was guilty of official misconduct and illegal activities, even though he was not.

“By his false and defamatory statements and wrongful conduct, the Defendant has affected the Plaintiff’s private and professional life as well as the manner in which his family, friends, and colleagues view him,” the suit states.

Bianchi asserts that the commenter acted either out of “malice” or “reckless disregard for the falsity of the statements.”

His suit includes counts alleging defamation and false light and seeks an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

In his recently-filed motion seeking expedited discovery, Bianchi states that McHenry County Blog may have information or be able to lead to other sources that could identify the defendant.

He acknowledges, however, that this information "will not likely be produced absent a subpoena."

The blog's "about" section includes a biography of Cal Skinner, a former Republican state lawmaker who appears to run the blog.

Neither the blog, not Skinner, are named in the suit, but likely will be the targets of subpoenas if Bianchi's discovery request is approved.

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