State lawmakers are reacting with alarm to a recently released email that refers to the cover-up of a quote “rape in Champaign”.
State Senator Scott Bennett, a Champaign Democrat, says he was shocked and angered by the WBEZ report of a 2012 email from then-lobbyist Michael McClain to two aides in the administration of then-governor Pat Quinn.
“I think it should give everyone concern, regardless of political party,” said Bennett. “It’s insane that you could run a state that way. If any of this that has come to light proves to be correct, I really don’t know how they sleep at night.
WBEZ reports that in the email, McClain asked Quinn’s legislative affairs liason Garry Hannig and chief-of-staff Jerry Stermer to go easy on pending disciplinary action regarding a state employee, Forrest Ashby of Quincy.
“This man is a good compliance person, as I told you,” McClain wrote in the email, which WBEZ obtained through an open records search. “The AG’s office and the Sheriffs love working with him. He has kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items. He is loyal to the Administration.”
The WBEZ report suggests that the reference to Jones might have referred to Lorrie Rickman-Jones, former chief of the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Mental Health Division, for whom Ashby once worked. Rickman-Jones is married to former Democrat Senate President Emil Jones of Chicago.
WBEZ reported it could find no other details about the reference to “the rape in Champaign”, and that Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said she knew nothing about the email that mentioned it.
Bennett is calling on anyone with information about the assault case mentioned in the email to come forward with what they know. He suggests they report their information to the Champaign County State’s Attorney, Illinois State Police or the Illinois Executive Inspector General.
Bennett, a former Champaign County prosecutor, says it’s important to get more information about the apparent sexual assault, even after several years have passed.
“It’s discouraging when we don’t find these out for eight years,” said Bennett, a former Champaign County prosecutor. “But there’s many ways where the statute of limitations might not have run. So it’s important if there is something like this that people have information about, we share it with authorities so we can try to find justice for both the assailant and the victim.”
Legislation that took effect January 1st eliminates the statute of limitations in Illinois on cases of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
Several other lawmakers have also voiced their concerns over the WBEZ report of the McClain email.
“This is absolutely disgraceful,” wrote State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) in a tweet. “Anyone with knowledge of the rape and cover-up referenced in this email must come forward immediately.”
McClain is a long-time confidante of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who praised him on his retirement in 2016 as someone who “operated with complete honesty and integrity”, according to the Quincy Herald-Whig. But on the day after the WBEZ report first aired, Madigan issued a statement calling the report of the email “serious and troubling”, and said he had no prior knowledge of the incident it refers to. He also called on “those with any information to come forward”.