An ex-Cook County law clerk, who was fired for allegedly
impersonating a judge from the bench, has been criminally charged in connection
with the incident.
Friday, prosecutors with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office
appeared in court to formally file a criminal complaint against Rhonda
Crawford, charging Crawford with official misconduct, a felony, and a count of
impersonation, a misdemeanor.
Crawford was released without bond following a hearing Friday
“The role and conduct of a judge is at the heart of our criminal
justice system in the pursuit of justice in each and every case,” State’s
Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a written statement released by her office. “The
defendant’s conduct in this case was offensive to the integrity of our system
and cannot be excused or ignored as a mere lapse in judgment.”
The criminal charges come in the wake of official state
professional disciplinary actions launched against Crawford by the Illinois Attorney
Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which asked the Illinois Supreme
Court to suspend Crawford’s license to practice law in the state on an interim
basis and to block her from being able to be sworn in as a judge, should she
secure enough votes on Nov. 8 to otherwise secure a spot on the Cook County
Circuit Court bench on Nov. 8.
Crawford filed as a candidate in the race for a
subcircuit judicial position this year, and won the Democratic nomination for
the seat in March. In judicial candidate evaluations posted online before the
primary election, Crawford had been among those candidates receiving grades of
“not recommended” or “not qualified” from the Illinois State Bar Association.
As no Republican or independent candidate had filed
to seek the judicial post, Crawford was slated to run unopposed, and be sworn
in after the election.
However, in August, according to the ARDC complaint
and Alvarez’s office, Cook County Judge Valarie Turner during a routine
afternoon court call reviewing traffic tickets at the Markham courthouse
allegedly allowed Crawford to don her robes and allowed her to preside over
The incident was reported to the judge who oversees
operations at the Markham courthouse, and was later referred to Cook County
Chief Judge Timothy Evans. Evans ultimately fired Crawford, and the Cook County
Circuit Court’s Executive Committee pulled Turner from hearing any more cases
until an investigation into the incident could be completed.
Following the incident, Cook County Judge Maryam
Ahmad, an appointed judge who had lost her bid to win election to a different Cook
County judicial post in the March primary, announced she was mounting a
write-in campaign against Crawford. She has also asked the courts to kick off
Crawford off the ballot.
The Illinois Supreme Court has given Crawford until Oct. 28 to
respond to the ARDC’s accusations.
Crawford’s attorney Victor Henderson has accused the state’s
attorney’s office and others of bringing the charges under political motivations,
saying the campaign to remove her from the ballot or bar her from becoming a judge
came at the request of Democratic Party bosses.