Coliseum Defense: State Police Was 'Prosecutor Shopping' Before Indictments | WGLT

Coliseum Defense: State Police Was 'Prosecutor Shopping' Before Indictments

Jan 11, 2018

The lead defendant in the Coliseum fraud case claims police investigators engaged in “prosecutor-shopping” before his indictment, suggesting the case was so weak federal prosecutors wouldn’t take it.

That claim is one of several included in recent filings in the Coliseum case by both the prosecution and defense. Five former managers of the downtown arena are accused of an elaborate multiyear scheme to skim and steal money from the City of Bloomington. All five have pleaded not guilty.

An attorney for John Butler, whose company managed the Coliseum until 2016, says in a recent court filing that Illinois State Police Special Agent Dan Rossiter “attempted to refer the (Coliseum) case to the U.S. Attorney in Peoria” and “that agency declined prosecution.” That shows “Rossiter was ‘prosecutor-shopping’ and exhibits a bias in the (Coliseum) case, said Butler’s attorney, Steve Beckett.

Sharon Paul, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois, said Thursday she couldn’t comment on that claim because it’s an ongoing case. A message left with the Illinois State Police was not immediately returned.

Ultimately, the State Police’s 16-month investigation lead to an 111-count indictment against Butler and four of his former employees. The case is being prosecuted by the McLean County state’s attorney.

In his motion, Butler’s attorney is seeking records of any communications between State Police and the U.S. attorney’s office, the state’s attorney’s office, the FBI, the IRS, and other agencies.

McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers on Thursday declined to comment because it's a pending case.

"The ISP is not commenting since this is an ongoing case," said State Police spokesperson Sgt. Ryan Cape.

In a separate filing, also Dec. 14, Butler’s attorney asked for prosecutors to provide more specific information about the 44 counts against him. The indictment “is vague, uncertain, and insufficient,” Beckett writes, leaving him “unable to prepare an intelligent defense.” Beckett is seeking more information about the specific individuals and financial transactions referenced in the indictments.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor filed a motion last week to remove one of Butler’s attorneys from the case.

Scott Kording, who is assisting Beckett with Butler’s defense, also represents Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner “personally in a separate but ongoing investigation by the Illinois State Police,” prosecutor Adam Ghrist said in his Jan. 3 filing. That investigation into Renner’s summer trip to Japan is ongoing.

His ties to Renner represent a conflict of interest, Ghrist argues. It could potentially “provide grounds for overturning a future conviction,” he said. Renner has spoken publicly about the Coliseum case, once comparing working with Butler’s company to “trying to deal with a Soviet Gulag.”

A message left with Kording on Thursday was not immediately returned.

Butler is due back in court Jan. 30 for a status hearing.

WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.