The felony prosecution against the recently deceased Kane County coroner — a case that had lingered in the courts for more than two years and centered on an outmoded TV set — ended quietly Thursday in a hearing that lasted about 30 seconds.
Appellate Prosecutor Charles Colburn informed Judge John McAdams that with the death last month of Coroner Charles West, the state was formally dropping charges against him.
“Given the bumpy road and the strange circumstances, I can’t say I’m surprised it ended this way,” Colburn said after the hearing.
West, who was 72, died July 4 from complications following a liver transplant at a Chicago hospital. He had taken medical leave in April from his duties as coroner and had not been well enough to attend any of his court hearings for months.
“I know he was looking forward to proving his innocence,” his attorney, Gary Johnson, said Thursday.
West’s death headed off what would have been a high-profile trial in Kane County that centered on actions the coroner took in disposing of a silver 24-inch Magnavox TV with built-in DVD and VHS players.
The set was among the items belonging to a Carpentersville man who died at home in 2007. When the coroner’s office was reportedly unable to locate any next of kin, West gave the TV to his son, a deputy coroner who was living with another of West’s deputies.
Authorities charged that the action violated state law, which directs coroners to properly dispose of “valuable property” in cases where no relatives can be found.
West was indicted in May 2010 on felony misconduct charges, but he remained on the job until poor health forced his departure.
The TV remains in the possession of the Kane County state’s attorney’s office. Lt. Pat Gengler of the sheriff’s department said it is unlikely to be claimed by anyone and may end up being auctioned.
“It’s not the kind of ending that gives anyone any satisfaction,” Colburn said. “You’d like to have some definite conclusion.”
Last year, the incident spawned a civil lawsuit filed against West by his chief deputy, Loren Carrera, who said she informed prosecutors about the TV set.
When West learned of Carrera’s actions, the suit alleges, he engaged in retaliatory and hostile conduct.
The civil suit is still being litigated.
The attorney representing West recently submitted a bill of $18,600 to Kane County for months of legal work, according to court files.
West sought to have the county pay his legal defense in the criminal case, too, but a judge denied that request.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times