Cook County judge convicted of bank fraud resigns, after federal judge refuses new trial

By Jonathan Bilyk | Sep 12, 2018

A Cook County judge convicted of bank fraud has resigned her position,  after a Chicago federal judge refused her requests to overturn the conviction and give her a new trial.

On Sept. 12, the Illinois Supreme Court announced Cook County Circuit Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien had resigned her office, effective Sept. 4.

The state high court justices noted the resignation followed her repeated pledge to the justices to do so, should U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin refuse her new trial request.

“The federal district court denied those motions on Sept. 4, 2018,” the state Supreme Court said in its Sept. 12 order. “O’Brien has therefore resigned her position as judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, effective Sept. 4, 2018.”

O’Brien has also withdrawn her petition to have her name again placed on the ballot in the Cook County judicial elections later this year, according to documents also made available by the Illinois Supreme Court.

With these steps taken, the Illinois Supreme Court declared moot a petition asking the court to issue an order barring O’Brien from appearing on the November judicial retention ballot. The petition had been presented by George Scully. The court documents do not specify who Scully is. However, a George Scully Jr., who had formerly served in the Illinois State House of Representatives as a Democrat, currently serves as a Cook County judge.

O’Brien was convicted in February by a federal jury on counts of mail fraud and bank fraud for her alleged role in a scheme federal prosecutors said involved using a straw buyer to falsely obtain about $1.4 million for “loans related to the purchase, maintenance and sale of properties on Chicago’s South Side.”

According to prosecutors, the alleged incidents occurred from 2004-2007, ending about five years before O’Brien was elected to the Cook County Circuit Court in 2012 as a Democrat running unopposed.

Before becoming a judge, O’Brien had worked as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the Illinois Department of Revenue in Chicago, and part-time as a loan officer for Amronbanc Mortgage Company in Lincolnwood, according to federal court documents.

O’Brien has continuously disputed and denied the charges.

Following her indictment, the leadership of the Cook County Circuit Court reassigned her to duties in which she would not hear cases.

And following her conviction, the Illinois Supreme Court granted the request of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission to suspend her law license, which essentially prohibited O’Brien from continuing to serve as a judge.

However, since her conviction and law license suspension, O’Brien retained her title and salary of more than $192,000 per year.

Further, even after her license was suspended, O’Brien had filed papers with the Illinois State Board of Elections to place her name on the ballot, potentially setting the stage for a sticky situation for Democratic Party leaders who for decades have simply told voters to retain all judges.

However, on Sept. 6, O’Brien notified state election officials of her intent to withdraw her name from the list of judicial candidates in November.

O’Brien has also indicated to the Illinois Supreme Court her intention to ask the IARDC to remove her name from “the rolls of the Illinois lawyers,” should Judge Durkin refuse her request for a new trial.

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Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois Supreme Court U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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