December 2, 2016
ALTON — A police officer accused of destroying evidence when he was the evidence officer has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and sentenced to court costs only.
Jonathan Forrler pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor count of officials misconduct on Wednesday after being originally indicted with felony official misconduct in December 2014.
Authorities said at the time they did not have an explanation as to why Forrler did the crime. They said he did not stand to gain from the destruction of evidence. Neither Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, nor Alton Police Chief Jason "Jake" Simmons could be reached Friday for comment.
Forrler, the former APD evidence officer, is accused of disposing of a sexual assault evidence collection kit and clothing on July 8, 2013. The warrant says the evidence was from a Missouri state criminal sexual abuse case, but APD was holding the evidence for an undisclosed reason.
The Madison County State's Attorney's Office learned of that, and other missing evidence, on July 23, 2014. Gibbons then requested assistance into the investigation from then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois Steve Wigginton, Illinois State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist with an investigation.
As the investigation progressed, the State's Attorney's Office filed notice in 130 criminal cases, advising defendants and their attorneys of the destruction of evidence in their case(s), Gibbons said Friday in a press release. In August, he had said some of the cases were related to drugs, but no money was missing from the evidence vaults. He also said he did not believe there was criminal intent on the officer's part.
Gibbons said investigators discovered Forrler had destroyed forensic evidence in a misdemeanor sexual abuse case that still was pending at the time, which is prohibited by law and cause of the indictment, Gibbons said.
After concluding the investigation, prosecutors presented the evidence to the grand jury.
"As the chief law enforcement officer for Madison County, it is my Constitutional and ethical obligation to ensure that justice and fairness are always given the highest priority and guarantee in our criminal justice system, and in this matter, that begins by giving criminal defendants full and fair disclosure of the destruction of evidence in their cases," Gibbons said at the time.
Gibbons said if any other instances of evidence destruction are uncovered, notices will be filed with the court immediately. He thanked his First Assistant Jennifer Vucich, who coordinated the investigation for his office in conjunction with the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Unit, the U.S. Attorney's Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alton Mayor Brant Walker and the Alton Police Department. "Everyone was supportive and worked together to fully investigate and resolve this serious matter," Gibbons said in the release.
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