At a January sentencing hearing for an 18-year-old convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl, an Adams County, Illinois, judge reversed his own conviction so the teen, Drew Clinton, wouldn’t have to serve prison time. The sexual assault charge came with a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison, but Judge Robert Adrian said that Clinton had no prior record and already served 148 days in county jail, which he said was “plenty of punishment,” so he threw out the conviction and released him. The girl’s father told Jezebel that she had been suicidal after the assault and the judge overturning the conviction “opened the wound again.”
The case generated national headlines, and the judge was reassigned to civil, not criminal, cases. A Change.org petition calling on the Illinois Courts Commission to censure, suspend, or remove Judge Adrian has more than 102,000 signatures.
Now the state attorney general is getting involved. Yesterday, Illinois AG Kwame Raoul filed a petition urging the Illinois Supreme Court to order the judge to sentence Clinton in accordance with state law.
Raoul said in a statement: “The mandatory sentencing range set by the Illinois General Assembly for felony criminal sexual assault is four to 15 years in prison. In addition to the insensitivity to the victim in this case, the judge’s decision to vacate the conviction and call the 148 days Clinton served in county jail ‘plenty of punishment,’ demonstrates an abuse of power.” He also wrote in the complaint that, by refusing to enforce a criminal statute, Judge Adrian acted as a “quasi-legislator” and “undermin[ed]” confidence in the judicial process.”
Gary Farha, the state’s attorney who prosecuted the case, applauded the AG’s petition and said survivors often don’t report assaults because they don’t trust that the legal system will believe them or result in consequences. “The victim in this case took the brave steps of reporting the crime, cooperating with the investigation, and testifying at trial. Because of her courage, the defendant was convicted of his crime,” Farha said. “There is nothing more frustrating and disheartening to our community, this victim, and to all victims of sexual assault when any defendant avoids the legal consequences of his conduct.”
Clinton was convicted of assaulting 16-year-old Cameron Vaughan at a Memorial Day party, where other teenagers were drinking alcohol. Vaughan said she passed out from drinking and woke up with Clinton raping her and pushing a pillow into her face. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Adrian blamed the owners of the home where the party happened for letting teenagers drink and chastised girls who went swimming in their underwear.
Groups are planning a protest on Saturday afternoon where they will collect letters to the Illinois Supreme Court requesting Judge Adrian’s removal, per The Herald-Whig.
Cameron’s father, Scott Vaughan, told Jezebel in January: “Judges need to be held accountable for their decisions. They’re voted in to uphold the law, not take the law into their own hands and decide what’s best.”