Heckinger appointed to another jail lawsuit

While Winnebago County officials build a massive 1,212-bed jail to fulfill terms outlined in a stay-of-litigation concerning a 2000 federal jail overcrowding lawsuit, another federal case was filed late last year that concerns use of space in the existing jail. Both lawsuits have at least one thing in common—the lead attorney is John F. Heckinger Jr., who had his law license suspended last year by the state.

Former Winnebago County Jail inmate Kevin Lee Carter alleged in his November 2004 federal lawsuit that he was beaten by two other inmates on April 6, 2003, because of his status as a convicted sex offender. Carter accused the other inmates of “using a sock containing a bar of soap as a weapon,” which caused Carter “serious personal injuries.”

Heckinger and Carter allege the beating was the result of a “lack of areas” to separate sex offenders from prisoners who may cause them harm. They also assert there are a “lack of areas to place prisoners, for their own safety, away from the general population.”

However, such space problems should not be an issue after the new 588,000 square-foot criminal justice facility is completed in 2007 or sooner.

Bill Emmert, assistant state’s attorney for Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s office, said he couldn’t comment on the pending case, and how Carter’s lawsuit is related to the 2000 jail overcrowding lawsuit. Emmert plans to file a response to Carter’s amended complaint sometime in October.

Heckinger was appointed to the lawsuit by the Federal Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney in January 2005. Heckinger filed the amended complaint on behalf of Carter in July, which was served to County officials in late August.

Since the matter is a civil case, and Heckinger is a member of the federal trial bar, he will not be compensated for his efforts representing Carter, according to staff in the federal clerk’s office. The work will be done pro bono publico, which means “for the public good” in Latin.

Heckinger had his law license suspended for 60 days last year after he was charged by the state with “unauthorized” use of his client’s funds. He was also accused of co-mingling his clients’ funds from different accounts.

Heckinger received his law license in October 1975. According to the 1978 city directory, Heckinger worked for the City of Rockford in the Department of Commerce and Renewal. He did not return a message for comment.

Fromt the Sept. 14-20, 2005, issue

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