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Illinois judge who sparked outrage by reversing man’s rape conviction is removed from bench

CHICAGO — An Illinois judge who sparked outrage by reversing a man’s rape conviction involving a 16-year-old girl has been removed from the bench after a judicial oversight body found he circumvented the law and engaged in misconduct.

The Illinois Courts Commission removed Adams County Judge Robert Adrian from the bench Friday after it held a three-day hearing in Chicago in November on a compliant filed against Adrian.

Its decision says Adrian “engaged in multiple instances of misconduct” and “abused his position of power to indulge his own sense of justice while circumventing the law.”

The commission could have issued a reprimand, censure or suspension without pay, but its decision said it had “ample grounds” for immediately removing Adrian from the bench in western Illinois’ Adams County.

In October 2021, Adrian had found then 18-year-old Drew Clinton of Taylor, Michigan, guilty of sexual assaulting a 16-year-old girl during a May 2021 graduation party.

The state Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint against Adrian after the judge threw out Clinton’s conviction in January 2022, with the judge saying that the 148 days Clinton had spent in jail was punishment enough.

The complaint said Adrian had acknowledged he was supposed to impose the mandatory four-year sentence against Clinton, but that he would not send him to prison. “That is not just,” Adrian said at the sentencing hearing, according to court transcripts. “I will not do that.”

Clinton was accused of sexually assaulting Cameron Vaughan. The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they were sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly.

Vaughan told The Associated Press in November, when she was 18, that Adrian’s reversal of Clinton’s verdict left her “completely shocked” but determined to oust the judge. She attended the November commission proceedings with family, friends and supporters.

After Adrian threw out Clinton’s conviction, Vaughan said that the judge told the court “this is what happens whenever parents allow teenagers to drink alcohol, to swim in pools with their undergarments on,” she recounted in an account supported by a court transcript of the January 2022 hearing.

Adrian’s move sparked outrage in Vaughn’s hometown of Quincy, Illinois, and beyond, with the prosecutor in the case saying that her “heart is bleeding for the victim.”

Vaughan told the Chicago Tribune following Friday’s decision removing Adrian that she was “very happy that the commission could see all the wrong and all the lies that he told the entire time. I’m so unbelievably happy right now. He can’t hurt anybody else. He can’t ruin anyone else’s life.”

Judge Robert Adrian, center, heads into an Illinois Courts Commission hearing on Nov. 7, 2023, in Chicago. Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

When reached by phone Friday, Adrian told the Chicago Tribune that the commission’s decision to remove him is “totally a miscarriage of justice. I did what was right. I’ve always told the truth about it.”

Adams County court records show that Clinton’s guilty verdict was overturned because prosecutors had failed to meet the burden of proof to prove Clinton guilty.

But in Friday’s decision, the commission wrote that it found Adrian’s claim that “he reversed his guilty finding based on his reconsideration of the evidence and his conclusion that the State had failed to prove its case to be a subterfuge — respondent’s attempt to justify the reversal post hoc.”

Clinton cannot be tried again for the same crime under the Fifth Amendment. A motion to expunge Clinton’s record was denied in February 2023.

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