BLOOMINGTON — A new judge has been assigned to handle the felony cases filed against five former management officials of the city-owned arena.

The defendants each made brief appearance Friday in which Judge Scott Drazewski granted a motion by First Assistant State's Attorney Adam Ghrist for a new judge.  Judge Robert Freitag was named to handle the cases, starting with hearings set in December.

Charged are John Y. Butler, president of the Central Illinois Arena Management (CIAM); Bart Rogers, general manager; and employees Jay C. Laesch, Paul E. Grazer and Kelly W. Klein. All five defendants are free on bond.

The 111 indictments returned Sept. 20 by a McLean County grand jury accuse Butler of taking more than $1.1 million in city funds between May 2010 and March 2016.  The city ended its 10-year contract with CIAM in March 2016. The former U.S. Cellular Coliseum is now Grossinger Motors Arena and managed by another company.

Accompanied to court by defense lawyer Steven Beckett, Butler was directed to return to court Dec. 15. The former CIAM official is charged with theft, money laundering, wire fraud, filing false tax returns and conspiracy to commit tax evasion.

Rogers and his lawyer, Stephanie Wong, were given a Dec. 1 date for a hearing to review the status of the case that involves 13 counts of theft of government funds.

Laesch's defense lawyer, Steve Skelton, was handed an enveloped by Ghrist with potential evidence. Laesch has a Dec. 1 hearing. He is charged with theft, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit tax evasion.

Klein was given permission to travel outside the state in December to visit family. Defense lawyer Joel E. Brown said his client had signed a waiver of extradition to comply with the modification to her bond. She is due in court Dec. 1 on theft and money laundering allegations.

Travel was also approved for Grazer, who said he needs to travel to Nebraska for his employment. The defendant, who was in court with defense lawyer Philip Finegan, is charged with theft, money laundering, tax evasion and conspiracy to commit tax evasion.   

Butler was given similar permission earlier to travel for his work. 

Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny



Reporter for The Pantagraph.