Trial didn’t get underway after all Monday for LaSalle County Auditor Jody Wilkinson because of a big question about the evidence. There were some LaSalle County Board Salary and Labor Committee meetings in closed session. The committee hasn’t made the minutes public, so it might be illegal for the State’s Attorney’s Office to use them in a court case.
Defense attorney Joe Navarro thought there’s a way for the judge to review the minutes himself and decide what can and can’t be used. But Judge Michael C. Jansz says he’s not going to rush a decision. And he doesn’t have to, because Wilkinson decided Monday morning to have Jansz instead of a jury decide whether she’s guilty.
In a bench trial, as it’s called, a judge has a lot of flexibility to decide when testimony will be heard. The judge can hear witnesses and accept evidence out of order in a bench trial. But Jansz says he’s not going to do that, because he doesn’t want to make things complicated.
Wilkinson and two former Auditor’s Office employees are charged in a payroll padding scheme. The lawyers on each side of the case expect the trial to take two days. If it isn’t finished on May 31 and if the current schedule for co-defendant Tori Artman’s case before another judge doesn’t change, Wilkinson’s trial will overlap with hers. Artman’s trial is scheduled for the week of June 3. Co-defendant Pamela Wright is scheduled for trial July 8.