An attorney for Riverside Elementary School District 96 at a school board meeting earlier this month said he knows that the police report into allegations of sexual abuse of the daughters of a Riverside elementary school principal was released before a subpoena or a Freedom of Information Act request for the report was ever filed.
“We are now in possession of information where it is clear that, at the time of the initial release of that report, there was no subpoena that had been filed and there was no FOIA request on file, and at this stage we’re continuing our investigation so that we can inform the board of what other action needs to be taken,” said Justino Petrarca, a partner in the law firm of Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, which represents District 96.
Petrarca maintains that the police report was improperly released and that it should never have been released because it deals with an investigation into alleged sexual abuse of minors.
“This controversy began and is rooted in the release of a police report which we have maintained should never have been released,” Petrarca said. “The police took a very proactive role in indicating that their release of the report was pursuant to a subpoena they had received that justified the release even though the report had not been finalized and subject to a Freedom of Information Act that had been filed.”
In fact, the police report was released by Riverside police on three occasions. The first was given to attorney Bruce Rose, who obtained an unredacted copy of the report on Oct. 6, 2011, according to police records.
A 39-page redacted version of the report was also released to Steven Battersby, father of former Ames School teacher Susan Battersby, on Dec. 1, 2011 in response to a Freedom of Information request. That is the version of the report that has been widely distributed in the community.
Police also released the report to Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi on Dec. 20, 2011 in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by her on Dec. 14. On that date, Lieggi also filed three other FOIAs, asking for a list of all people requesting a copy of the report, all “subpoenas or attorney’s requests” for the police report and a third for another copy of the report.
Petrarca drew attention to a subpoena that was stamped received Oct. 5, 2011 by the Riverside Police Department, a copy of which the Landmark has obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.
The subpoena bears the name of Rose, the attorney who represented Susan Battersby, who resigned from District 96 in 2011 after the district agreed to pay her for the rest of the year and she agreed not to sue the district.
Lieggi, the principal at Ames, had reported allegations that Battersby had sexually abused one of Lieggi’s daughters, but a police investigation conducted by Riverside Detective David Krull exonerated Battersby.
“The subpoena didn’t look right to me,” Petrarca said at the Jan. 15 meeting. “As lawyers we pretty much know what subpoenas look like. This subpoena in all respects looked like an invalid, if not doctored up subpoena.”
Petrarca announced he had filed a complaint “against the attorney who I was told served the subpoena” to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC). The attorney named in Petrarca’s complaint was Rose.
Rose, who has practiced law since 1979, strongly denied filing the subpoena and said that he has filed a cross complaint with the ARDC against Petrarca for impugning his integrity and “filing a false report against me,” as Rose put it in an email to the Landmark.
“I never prepared or served the subpoena, and I had never seen it until I received a copy courtesy of Mr. Petrarca a few months ago,” Rose said in his email.
Rose noted that subpoena delivered in his name was an out-of-date, preprinted form, lacked his attorney identification number, misspelled the name of his law firm, had no case number and was typewritten instead of being created on the electronic PDF form available on the website of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Rose also pointed out that the subpoena “has no information showing how, when or by whom it was served and is unsigned and unnotarized”.
Rose also noted that the witness signature on the “subpoena” is dated Oct. 4, 2010 when the rest of the subpoena is dated Oct. 2011.
Typically subpoenas are only issued in existing court cases or grand jury investigations. In October 2011 there was no court case dealing with the matters that are the subject of the police report that the subpoena asked for.
Another lawyer for Scariano, Himes and Petrarca said Monday that her firm no longer believes that Rose filed the subpoena.
“In reality what we’ve discovered is that Mr. Rose never submitted a subpoena,” said Attorney Julie Lewis who spoke with the Landmark on Jan. 24, because Petrarca was traveling.
Lewis said that in an October 2012 meeting, Riverside village officials told her, Petrarca and the late Tony Scariano that Rose had filed the subpoena.
“When we met with village officials in October 2012, Detective David Krull stated, as did [Riverside Village Attorney] Lance Malina, that Bruce Rose gave them that subpoena,” Lewis said.
Malina told the Landmark last week that he had no firsthand knowledge of who filed the subpoena but has been told by police officials that Rose had filed the subpoena.
“The way I understand it is that Rose and Battersby showed up at the police station,” said Malina. “They wanted a copy of the report. They prepared a FOIA. They were told the FOIA was going to be denied because the investigation was still pending, which it was at that point. It is common to deny FOIAs when an investigation is pending.
“The following day, though, they got a subpoena for the report and in response they put it in sealed envelope and had it delivered to Bruce Rose’s office.”
When told of Malina’s comment, Rose said that most of what Malina was told is inaccurate.
“Nothing that Mr. Malina was told is correct, except for the delivery of the incident report in an envelope,” Rose said.
Who prepared the subpoena? So far, no one knows for sure.
The Landmark on Thursday asked Krull whether he had any role in preparing the subpoena. Krull referred all questions to Malina. Krull indicated Malina would be responding to the inquiry. As of Tuesday morning, the Landmark had received no response.
Bob Uphues contributed to this report.