CHANNAHON, IL — Jennifer Bonjean, the New York City lawyer for the family of Samantha Harer, said a recent ruling by Will County Judge John Anderson recognized that the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office of Jim Glasgow had no legal standing in her client’s civil lawsuit against former Crest Hill police officer Felipe “Phil” Flores.
Although the judge recently denied Bonjean’s request to unseal various documents submitted by the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, “We understand Judge Anderson’s ruling and largely agree with it since the submission of the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office is not being considered in any way in connection with this case,” Bonjean told Joliet Patch during this week’s interview. “I am in receipt of materials sent to the ARDC (Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission) and if there are any additional materials sent to Judge Anderson, we will obtain those through a FOIA request as Judge Anderson suggested.”
On Aug. 7, Patch reported that more than two weeks after Judge Anderson issued a $15 million civil judgment against Flores in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Samantha Harer’s family, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office of Jim Glasgow had injected itself into the case. As a result, the Harers’ lawyer filed a motion asking Anderson to unseal a communication submitted to the judge on July 24 from Glasgow’s staff. The document included “investigative information regarding the death of Samantha Harer” and it also raised questions concerning the “professional conduct” of Bonjean, according to newly filed court records.
During this week’s phone interview, Bonjean told Patch that it appears that State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow and his staff also sent a copy of the letter to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
“I am reasonably certain that what was submitted to Judge Anderson was a duplicate of what they sent to the ARDC,” Bonjean explained. “I did my job consistent with the rules of ethics, of that I’m confident. I look forward to hearing their explanation for attempting to influence proceedings in which they are not a party and their efforts to defame a lawyer in good standing in the state of Illinois.”
Patch asked Bonjean to explain what type of letters or documents the Will County State’s Attorney’s office sent to Judge Anderson after he ruled in her favor.
“They sent things like letters from Channahon’s attorneys and other material that would not have even been admissible if they were a party to the case,” Bonjean said of the State’s Attorneys’ Office submissions to Judge Anderson that were made under seal.
Back on Feb. 13, 2018, Flores, an off-duty Crest Hill police officer, was inside Harer’s apartment at the time of her death by gunshot, and he called 911 claiming she just shot herself. The Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force and Channahon police investigated Harer’s death as a self-inflicted gunshot and cleared Flores of criminal wrongdoing. However, Flores never worked on the job for the Crest Hill Police Department after the shooting happened, and he resigned from the department the following year.
“They seem to believe that I should have accepted their cause of death finding. That’s pretty much it,” Bonjean said of the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office. “The State seems to think we should not have been able to present evidence of an alternative theory of a cause of death and by doing so, we were misleading the court … By this logic, we should not have been able to even bring a lawsuit. I might point out that even Flores did not move to dismiss the complaint.
“By their logic, we should not even have been able to bring a lawsuit. I don’t know who they think they are, not only did Flores not move to dismiss, but the federal courts allowed this case to proceed in discovery for three years.”
In July’s wrongful death lawsuit ruling in favor of Samantha Harer’s parents, Anderson wrote: “The evidence demonstrates that Felipe made offensive and harmful physical contact with Samantha, without valid cause. The conduct was undertaken with reckless and intentional disregard to Samantha’s life. As a direct and proximate cause of Felipe’s misconduct, Samantha suffered severe physical and emotional injuries, including death. In summary, the Court finds that Felipe likely caused Samantha’s death.”
Judge Anderson further stated in his ruling, “the evidence demonstrates that Felipe likely shot and killed Samantha.”
In spite of the judge’s ruling, Glasgow’s staff informed Joliet Patch that there were no plans to reopen the Harer death investigation.
“And they received some criticism in the press, and by the general public, and instead of doing what a public agency should do, which is to accept that criticism and either revisit their decision or stand by it, they thought they would attempt to intimidate a practitioner, myself, who was doing nothing but her job,” Bonjean said. “They opened up this can of worms, and I will make sure it gets closed properly.”
In the coming days, Bonjean said, she will have an opportunity to respond to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office ethics complaint filed with the Illinois Attorney Regulation and Disciplinary Commission. Although Bonjean is based in New York City, she has a law office in Chicago and is licensed to practice law in Illinois.
“I already know the only party that engaged in unethical behavior here is the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office,” Bonjean said Tuesday. “I am confident that I will be vindicated. This stunt is going to backfire on the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“They are entitled to their view; they are entitled to remain steadfast to their findings, as erroneous as they may be, but they are not entitled to interfere in the civil litigation of private citizens.”
Related Joliet Patch coverage:
Column: Samantha Harer Verdict Hurts Jim Glasgow’s Legacy