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Former McHenry cop admits stealing from evidence

WOODSTOCK – A former McHenry police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to theft and official misconduct, admitting that he took seized drug money.

Dale A. Hojnacki, 36, was charged in April after a routine department audit discovered the money was missing.

Hojnacki initially was charged with two counts of theft under $10,000 and later indicted on an additional five counts of official misconduct. He pleaded guilty to one count of each charge, both Class 3 felonies, with the remaining counts dismissed.

Hojnacki entered a blind plea, meaning there is no agreement with prosecutors as to his sentence. He faces up to five years in prison but also is eligible for probation.

As part of the plea, there will be no other charges against Hojnacki stemming from his employment by the McHenry Police Department.

Sentencing in front of McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather is scheduled for March 8.

An 11-year veteran of the department, Hojnacki resigned after being charged.

He had been a patrolman at the time of his resignation, but was a detective from December 2009 to November 2011.

Hojnacki was not assigned to the evidence vault and was not an evidence custodian, McHenry Police Chief John Jones has said.

A McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office letter indicated that prosecutors believed at one point that Hojnacki also might have been taking narcotics from sealed evidence bags.

In a May letter to the then-president of the McHenry County Bar Association, Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs said he wanted lawyers to be aware of potential evidentiary problems related to all McHenry Police Department arrests.

“A subsequent investigation has revealed that Officer Hojnacki may have tampered with narcotics evidence,” Combs wrote. “The McHenry [P]olice [D]epartment has reason to believe that Officer Hojnacki has been opening sealed evidence bags and removing narcotics.”

Because of a gag order put in place at the request of Hojnacki’s attorneys, Combs has been unable to comment about the results of an additional audit of the evidence room by an outside agency.

The Northwest Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of that audit, which was denied by Judge Prather.

However, Prather said that once the case is completed, she will reconsider. Until then, she said, the gag order stands.

Chief Jones declined to comment Tuesday, saying he also was bound by the gag order.

“I want to speak, but there’s a gag order, and I’m respecting that gag order,” he said.

Shortly after Hojnacki’s arrest, Jones released a statement saying that he thought Hojnacki’s actions were “despicable.”

Hojnacki deserved to prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, Jones said.

“I will not tolerate any act that makes him no better than the criminals we arrest on a daily basis,” Jones said.

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