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Jay Laesch, left, an employee of Central Illinois Arena Management, leaves the bench with his attorney, Steve Skelton, after pleading not guilty before Judge Casey Costigan on Sept. 29 at the McLean County Law and Justice Center. He is charged with improper management of the city-owned arena and wire fraud.

DAVID PROEBER, PANTAGRAPH FILE

BLOOMINGTON — The lineup of judges who will hear five cases against former management officials accused of stealing from the city-owned arena continued to change Friday as a second defendant asked for a new judge.

Jay Laesch, ex-finance director of BMI Concessions, the food and beverage service provider for Central Illinois Arena Management, filed a request to remove Judge Robert Freitag from his case involving charges of theft, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit tax evasion.

Defendants can ask at the start of a case that a new judge be assigned without stating a reason.

A hearing will be set for Laesch, 37, of Heyworth, after Chief Judge Kevin Fitzgerald assigns a new judge.

The 111 indictments returned Sept. 20 by a McLean County grand jury accuse the five CIAM officials of a range of financial crimes involving more than $1 million stemming from CIAM's 10-year management of what was then U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Now Grossinger Motors Arena, the downtown Bloomington venue has been managed by another company since April 1, 2016.

Shortly after charges were filed against him, CIAM General Manager Bart Rogers asked in October that a new judge handle his case, resulting in the appointment of Associate Judge Michael Stroh. 

Freitag was appointed to handle the five cases after the state sought a reassignment of their first judge, Scott Drazewski. 

In a separate hearing Friday, the defense lawyer for co-defendant Kelly Klein asked for an extended period before the next hearing to allow him to review 2,300 pages of materials contained in 72 boxes he has received from the state related to the case.

Klein, 57, of Bloomington, was assistant general manager for finance for the Coliseum. A Feb. 16 hearing is set for Klein on theft and money laundering charges.

Four-forty criminal charges are pending against John Y. Butler, president of CIAM. Butler, 58, of Bloomington, is accused of theft, money laundering, wire fraud, filing false sales tax returns and conspiracy to commit tax evasion.

Paul E. Grazar, former CIAM food and beverage manager, faces 13 counts of money laundering, theft, tax evasion and conspiracy to commit tax evasion.

All five defendants are free on bond.

The charges followed an investigation by the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Department of Revenue into alleged mismanagement of funds at the facility. Questions about CIAM's management surfaced during the city's transition to a new manager after CIAM opted not to renew its management agreement with the city.   

Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny

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