Friday, April 15, 2016

Financial exploitation charges against EM woman dropped

Rock Island County prosecutors have dropped a financial exploitation case after a judge blocked the use of a message recorded by the alleged victim before his death.

Alice M. Hipes, 59, of East Moline, was accused of taking money from a 92-year-old man who employed her as a private in-home caregiver. The alleged victim gave a recorded statement to police but died in May 2015 before the case could go to trial.

Without use of the video, "There really wasn't much we could do to prosecute the case," Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee said.

The case was dismissed Friday and cannot be refiled.

Ms. Hipes's attorney, Donovan S. Robertson, said his client was relieved to be done with a case that caused "terrible strain" on her life in the last year.

"My client was not guilty," he said, adding Ms. Hipes had "steadfastly" maintained her innocence throughout the process. "At long last, I believe we have achieved justice."

East Moline Police said they were notified in February 2015 that Alternatives for the Older Adult had learned an elderly man possibly was being financially defrauded.

Mr. Robertson said investigators initially claimed $78,000 was missing, but later reduced it to closer to $45,000. He said no forensic accounting was done by investigators and, after learning from Ms. Hipes that the alleged victim paid his bills primarily in cash, he subpoenaed bills and other financial statements, which accounted for the "vast majority" of the money alleged to be missing.

Following the man's death, prosecutors sought to use his recorded statement as evidence at trial. Mr. Robertson resisted, arguing the statements were made during a police investigation and not as sworn testimony in court.

Playing the recording at trial would violate his client's 6th Amendment right to confront and cross-examine the alleged victim, Mr. Robertson wrote in court records. In December, Judge Frank Fuhr ruled in Mr. Robertson's favor.

Mr. McGehee said state law allows for a hearsay exception in financial exploitation of the elderly if the alleged victim was disabled or unavailable to testify. Judges usually consider each case separately, Mr. McGehee said.

In this case, he said, Judge Fuhr was concerned about the defense being unable to cross-examine the alleged victim.

In January, Assistant Rock Island County State's Attorney John McCooley appealed the judge's decision. However, after multiple discussions with the appellate prosecutor's office, Mr. McGehee said his office was not confident they would win the appeal and chose to dismiss it.

"These are very difficult cases to win," he said, adding the appellate court usually gives great discretion to the original judge's ruling.

Prosecutors initially planned to dismiss the case, with leave to reinstate if further evidence was later uncovered, Mr. McGehee said. However, he said Judge Fuhr determined the case should be permanently dismissed.

Mr. Robertson said he could not recall specific details of the alleged victim's statement to police, but he did not believe they implicated Ms. Hipes. He said he did not believe investigators were badly motivated.

"It looked bad, and I think they smelled smoke and thought there was a fire," he said. "But there wasn't a fire."

Full Article & Source:
Financial exploitation charges against EM woman dropped

1 comment:

Betty said...

This is a shame and it's not right.