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McHenry calls for hearing to stop release of evidence locker audit

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 3:31 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 11:19 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – McHenry officials have asked a judge not to release an evidence locker audit that was completed after a former police officer was arrested in connection with taking seized drug money.

The McHenry Police Department hired an outside agency to perform a forensic audit of its evidence locker shortly after former officer Dale A. Hojnacki was arrested in connection with taking money from it. Hojnacki, 36, pleaded guilty in January to theft and official misconduct. He was sentenced to six months in the McHenry County Jail.

A gag order prevented involved parties from publicly discussing the case and sealed the audit from public inspection.

McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather, who sentenced the former officer, denied several Northwest Herald requests asking that the audit be unsealed, saying she would reconsider after sentencing. But after Hojnacki was sentenced in April, Prather again denied the request.

The newspaper has since filed court documents again seeking the release of the evidence locker audit, and the city asked the court to intervene to stop it.

The audit found 43 court cases that appeared compromised, but all were adjudicated either before the audit or shortly after, McHenry Police Chief John Jones has said.

McHenry Attorney Jennifer Gibson filed a petition to intervene, stating in court documents that “the right to public access is not absolute.”

“Revealing to the public what evidence has been obtained on a particular case could compromise an open investigation, especially if arrests have yet to be made or witnesses need to be interviewed,” court documents say. “Releasing the audit could even impact closed cases, as this would potentially open up the floodgates for post-conviction petitions based on new evidence.”

A hearing is set for Monday at 9 a.m. in front of Prather.

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