In January, an Illinois judge reversed his own rape conviction of an 18-year-old so he wouldn’t serve prison time for assaulting an intoxicated 16-year-old girl. The case drew national headlines, and the judge was reassigned to civil, not criminal, cases. Now, Eighth Circuit Judge Robert Adrian has narrowly won his campaign to remain on the bench for another six years, winning 62 percent of the vote—just over the 60 percent threshold.
Adrian still faces a complaint that the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board filed with the state’s Courts Commission, and that complaint could result in his suspension, censure, or even removal. A meeting will be held in that case on December 8.
In an October 2021 bench trial, Adrian found Drew Clinton guilty of one count of criminal sexual assault for raping Cameron Vaughan at a party in Quincy, Illinois, in May 2021. (A bench trial does not involve a jury.) At the January 2022 sentencing hearing, Adrian reversed that conviction because the mandatory minimum was four years in prison, and he said Clinton had no prior record and had served nearly five months in county jail. “For what happened in this case, that is plenty of punishment,” Adrian said. He also blamed Clinton’s parents for permitting the drunken party, saying “They allow 16-year-olds to bring liquor to a party. They provide liquor to underage people, and you wonder how these things happen.”
Megan Duesterhaus, the CEO of The Quincy Area Network Against Domestic Abuse (Quanada), told Jezebel in a statement that the group was disappointed that Adrian won the vote but encouraged by the number of people who voted against him, especially in Adams County, where the trial took place. (Adrian actually lost the county with about 49 percent “yes” and 51 percent “no.”)
Duesterhaus pointed to the state’s judicial review board as another mechanism to hold judges accountable. “Survivors are entitled to a criminal justice system in which they can place their trust from the beginning to the end. In the Clinton case, the police, sexual assault nurse examiners, crime lab analysts, and the prosecutors demonstrated that these parts of the legal system in Adams County, Illinois, are worthy of that trust,” Duesterhaus said. “Judge Adrian’s ruling in this case was a betrayal of that trust. It is incumbent on the judiciary to take actions that can restore survivors’ confidence in the entirety of the process.”
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When Adrian announced his retention campaign in July, he was met with about 25 protestors, including Vaughan herself.
“I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I will never sentence an innocent person to the Department of Corrections. It’s never going to happen,” Adrian said, according to Muddy River News. “I don’t care how much the left criticizes me. I don’t care how much the left lies about me. I don’t care how much they try to cancel me, which is what they are doing now. I’m going to do exactly what the law says. Drew Clinton was not guilty of the offenses he was charged with. That’s what the law showed. That’s what the evidence showed.”
In September, the Illinois State Bar Association did not recommend Adrian for retention. Judges need a 65 percent vote for recommendation, and he received just under 30 percent, the third-lowest rating of the 117 candidates across the state.