Joliet attorney wants to show Will County prosecutors respond aggressively to vehicle seizures – Shaw Local

A Joliet attorney challenging Illinois’ asset forfeiture law is trying to establish a pattern that he says will show how aggressively Will County prosecutors are taking away assets from owners who are not accused of using them to commit crimes.

Attorney Frank Andreano filed motions in the April 29 forfeiture case, in which he asked a Will County judge to review two forfeiture cases from 2020 and 2022. In those cases, owners got their vehicles back, pursuing an innocent owner’s claim after a lengthy trial judicial.

Andreano said he cited these two cases and many others to show that the April 29 case was not a mistake but part of a pattern.

In the latter case, prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of an elderly woman’s 2014 Mazda SUV that was confiscated from her daughter, who was ticketed for a traffic violation in New Lenox.

“My part is this is not a mistake. You go after innocent people all the time,” Andreano said of prosecuting asset forfeiture cases.

The April 29 case led Andreano to file a counterclaim on May 13 that challenges the constitutionality of Illinois’ asset forfeiture law. Andreano said he plans to take his challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his counterclaim, Andreano argues that asset forfeiture law allows Will County prosecutors to act as “large debt collection attorneys dealing only with the amount of funds collected and property seized.” He claimed that prosecutors “pursue for profit” in asset forfeiture cases.

“As long as there is a financial motive, nothing changes,” Andreano said.

Carole Cheney, a spokeswoman for Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, said Andreano’s lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of “settled, well-established asset forfeiture laws.” She said their office uses the confiscated money “consistent with the law for law enforcement and public education purposes.”

On Friday, Cheney declined to answer questions about Andreano’s recent documents because the case is ongoing.

A 2020 asset forfeiture case prosecuted by Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Dant Foulk involved a woman whose Ford Explorer was taken from her husband after he was arrested for aggravated driving under the influence.

The woman’s statement shows that she and her husband bought the vehicle, she never allowed him to use it under the influence of alcohol, and court records show that she uses it for her son’s sports purposes.

After about half a year of proceedings, Will County Chief Judge Dan Kennedy ordered the woman to repossess her vehicle.

Court records show that two months later, Kennedy denied Foulk’s request to reconsider his decision. Foulk then appealed Kennedy’s decision.

An appeals court upheld Kennedy’s decision in a 2022 ruling. The appeals court said that prosecutors’ interpretation of the law on asset forfeiture “serves to punish not only the perpetrators of the crime, but also those who co-own vehicles with the perpetrators.”

The Court of Appeal did not agree to this interpretation of the law. The high court found that the woman was not involved in any wrongdoing and banned her husband from using the vehicle.

About two months after the appellate decision, prosecutors filed a motion to forfeit assets in connection with a separate incident for a less serious offense, namely a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license, court records show.

Court records show the 2022 asset forfeiture case handled by Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Laurence Leszczyński involved a Ford Fusion owned by a man who lent it to his daughter. The daughter, in turn, allowed her fiancé to run it.

While driving, my fiancé was arrested for driving with a suspended license.

Court records show that after a 2023 court hearing, Judge Elizabeth Dow allowed the owner to repossess the car after determining that he was the true owner and had not consented to his daughter’s fiancé using the vehicle.