|Leonard Puccini - Big Brother volunteer|
“It shows that the system works. It’s self-correcting,” said defense attorney Kathleen Zellner, whose office represented Puccini.
Puccini, 54, is serving a five-year prison sentence after being found guilty by McHenry County Judge Michael Feetterer last year.
Authorities alleged that in 2010, Puccini pulled down the pants of a 12-year-old boy and spanked him for the purpose of sexual gratification. Puccini had met the boy several months before through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
The appeals court ruled that Feetterer should not have allowed statements from two witnesses who testified that Puccini had committed inappropriate sexual acts with them decades ago when they were boys.
|Judge Michael Feetterer|
Puccini was never convicted of a crime for those older alleged acts, and the appeals court ruled that without the men’s testimony, there was not enough evidence to convict Puccini of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against the boy he met as a Big Brothers volunteer.
“…A retrial would serve only to allow the state to supply evidence that it failed to present in the first proceeding,” the judges wrote. “As such, we conclude that double jeopardy precludes a retrial and that the conviction must be reversed outright.”
Zellner concurred that there was scant evidence for a conviction.
“To construe a spanking as sexual gratification — it’s too much,” she said. You haven't been reading this blog , Ms Zellner, have you? The prolific child molester Cyril Smith was first investigated for spanking boys. And he was not the only one.
|Zellner works extensively on wrongful |
conviction cases, sometimes pro-bono.
“We respect the decision of the appellate court,” Combs said.
Zellner said she thinks there is little chance the state Supreme Court would decide to hear an appeal, much less overturn the ruling.
“There’s no reason to undo this,” she said.
The two men who testified in Puccini’s trial alleged that in the 1980s and 1990s, he engaged in sexual acts with them. The appellate judges (3) ruled that those allegations were so dissimilar to the spanking, and they happened so long ago, that they shouldn't have been allowed at trial.
“There is great risk here that (Puccini) was convicted based on the uncharged, unproven, remote allegations rather than the evidence supporting the charged crime,” Appellate Judge Ann Jorgensen wrote.