SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has filed a complaint regarding alleged unwanted sexual advances toward women against Coles County attorney Lonnie Lutz.
Filed Aug. 5, the complaint against the recently retired Coles County public defender alleges three counts of battery against three different women.
Lutz served as the county public defender for 33 years before retiring in June. The complaint says he was serving as public defender when the alleged actions occurred — the first in 2010 and the others in 2012.
The charges, involving three female clients whom Lutz was assigned to represent, allege unwanted sexual advances toward the women by Lutz.
According to an official at the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) Springfield office, Lutz must respond to the complaint by Sept. 3. A pre-hearing — similar to a pretrial conference — will take place, during which a hearing date will be set. Officials say Lutz was served with papers on the complaint on Tuesday.
The hearing will be held before two lawyers and one non-lawyer who will volunteer to hear the case. They will make a recommendation to the Illinois Supreme Court, the official said, which is the only body that can discipline lawyers in the state of Illinois, the ARDC spokesman said.
Contacted Friday afternoon, Lutz referred comment on this case to his attorney, Rodney Smith of Brankey & Smith law office in Charleston.
The ARDC is a disciplinary body and cannot level criminal charges, which would have to be brought either by Coles County State’s Attorney Brian Bower or a special prosecutor.
The ARDC complaint states it is against: “Lonnie L. Lutz, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on Nov. 10, 1977, and alleges that (Lutz) has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.”
The first count alleges Lutz engaged in behavior “overreaching the attorney-client relationship” from Oct. 12, 2012, when he was assigned to to a defendant's case in Coles County, until Nov. 15, 2012, when the woman found private counsel. The defendant was charged with possession of methamphetamine and morphine.
The count claims on Oct. 11, 2012, Lutz asked the woman to come back to his office following a court appearance.
“During their conversation, (Lutz) then stood up, reached over to (the woman) and hugged her, then kissed her on the mouth, and put his tongue in her mouth,” the complaint states. “(She) said nothing but did not return the kiss.”
Lutz then said he could work something out with the state’s attorney on her case, and started rubbing her back, the complaint states. He allegedly asked the woman if his rubbing her back “felt good.” She responded that the “whole thing” made her nervous and upset, according to the complaint.
“(Lutz) then reached down and touched (the woman’s) breasts, over her shirt and reached between her legs and rubbed her vaginal area,” the complaint states. “He then put her hand on his pants, over his erect penis, and said “see what you do to me?”
Lutz told the woman that he was going to Springfield for the weekend, and asked if she would like to go with him, according to the complaint. He allegedly said he would tie her to the bed while he was at a conference. The woman did not respond.
The woman’s mother then called on her cellphone, and she told Lutz she had to leave, and she left his office.
The behavior was allegedly repeated a week later, the ARDC complaint states.
The second count again alleges that Lutz engaged behavior “overreaching the attorney-client relationship” beginning Aug. 14, 2010, when he asked a second woman — who was facing a theft charge — to his office.
The complaint states that Lutz did not sit at a chair behind his desk, but pulled up a chair so he was sitting directly in front of the woman. Lutz allegedly placed one of his legs between his client’s legs, and began to rub her leg.
The complaint continues by saying he allegedly asked the woman questions about her personal life, including questions about her boyfriend.
After she told Lutz she could not work because of a neck injury, he allegedly got up, and walked behind her and started rubbing her neck and shoulders, the complaint states.
“(The woman) asked (Lutz) if he treated all his clients this way and (he) said ‘only the special ones,’” the complaint states.
It alleges the woman left “feeling uncomfortable and stressed.”
The woman went to the car where her boyfriend waited for her, where she explained what had happened, the complaint stated. The couple filed a report with the Charleston Police Department, which passed the case to the Coles County State’s Attorney’s office, the ARDC complaint states.
No formal charges were filed, according to the complaint.
The third count in the matter alleges similar misconduct against a third female client who was charged with a theft offense, the complaint stated.
The count states the communication between Lutz and the woman began Aug. 18, 2012, a Saturday, when Lutz asked her to his office, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, the woman asked if Lutz usually had Saturday appointments, and he allegedly said, “I do if there is a pretty blond woman.”
Lutz allegedly asked about the client’s personal life during the 45-minute appointment and “did not ask her many questions about her case,” the complaint stated.
The woman missed her next court appearance on Aug. 27, 2012. Lutz allegedly told her that he “covered” for her and that “there are different ways to pay me back,” the complaint states.
After the woman’s next court appearance, Lutz asked her to wait outside the courtroom, where he allegedly sat next to her so their legs were touching.
“(The woman) moved down the bench several times, and each time, (Lutz) also moved down the bench so that he was sitting close to her,” the ARDC complaint states.
Lutz’s attorney, Smith, had not yet returned a phone call to the JG-TC to discuss the matter before press time late Friday.
The current complaint against Lutz can be found online at https://www.iardc.org/13PR0083CM.html.
This would not be the first time that a case involving Lutz has gone before the state Supreme Court.
He was reprimanded by justices in 2008 for charging a fee to a client whom he was originally appointed to represent in his role as Coles County public defender in 2003, according to JG-TC reports from 2008. That complaint was filed against Lutz by the ARDC in November 2006.
The punishment was that there is a record of what Lutz did that the public can access. Lutz has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1977.
Lutz’s attorney, also Smith at that time, said Lutz felt he had done nothing wrong because there is no Supreme Court rule precluding part-time public defenders from representing clients privately and that the court was aware that the client privately retained Lutz. The ARDC hearing panel had recommended a two- to three-month suspension, Smith said.
Lutz was “in essence, vindicated,” Smith told the JG-TC, with a reprimand for allegations of misleading a client about the services he would receive.
The Illinois Supreme Court went with a recommendation from a review board of the state ARDC. The court declined to take an appeal from the ARDC staff that asked it to consider a tougher sanction against Lutz.
The review board recommended the reprimand for not telling Max G. McCall that he would receive the same legal services whether he hired Lutz or whether Lutz remained as his court-appointed attorney, the JG-TC previously reported. That occurred in 2004, when Lutz was still taking private cases, something he didn’t do as of 2008.
The review board didn’t find Lutz at fault for the original accusations in the case against him, but also went against a recommendation from an ARDC hearing board earlier in the process that said the case against Lutz should be dismissed.
“We’re happy that the Supreme Court decided not to take the case,” said attorney Smith, who represented Lutz in the discipline case then. “We still think the hearing panel got it right.
“He was, in essence, vindicated,” Smith told the JG-TC at the time.
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