BLOOMINGTON — A new judge will be named to hear one of five criminal cases against former management officials of the city-owned arena.
On Thursday, the defense lawyer for Bart Rogers asked that Judge Robert Freitag be removed in the case that accuses the former general manager of Central Illinois Arena Management (CIAM) of theft of government funds from the venue then known as U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
The defense and state have a right to request a new judge at the start of a case before substantive decisions are made.
The motion by lawyer Stephanie Wong follows similar requests from the state to substitute Judge Scott Drazewski from all five cases. Freitag was assigned as a result of those motions.
The decision on which 11th Judicial Circuit judge will hear Rogers' case was referred to Chief Judge Kevin Fitzgerald.
Judge Casey Costigan, another McLean County judge who hears felony cases, has recused himself from handling the case against co-defendant John Y. Butler, who served as CIAM president.
Butler faces the majority of the 111 indictments returned last month by a McLean County grand jury. He is accused of theft, money laundering, wire fraud, filing false sales tax returns and conspiracy to commit tax evasion.
The charges were filed following an 18-month Illinois State Police probe into alleged mismanagement of money at the venue, now called Grossinger Motors Arena. Questions surfaced in August 2016 as the city was preparing to enter into an agreement with a new management firm after CIAM and the city ended a 10-year contract.
Kelly W. Klein, who served as assistant general for finance, is charged with theft and money laundering. Paul E. Grazar, former food and beverage director for CIAM, faces theft, money laundering and tax-related charges.
Jay C. Laesch, ex-finance director of BMI Concessions, the venue's food and beverage service at the time, is charged with theft, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit tax evasion.
All five defendants are free on bond.
In another matter raised at Rogers' hearing Thursday, Assistant State's Attorney Brad Rigdon objected to Rogers' absence from the hearing. Saying that Wong "unilaterally waived" Rogers' appearance in court, Rigdon asked that the hearing be postponed until Rogers could be present.
Wong argued that Rogers' appearance was properly waived on a defense motion that received no objection from the state.
Freitag noted that a defendant's appearance is preferable, but given Rogers' knowledge of the request for a new judge and lack of an objection, the defendant's presence was not necessary.
A new court date will be set for Rogers after the judicial appointment.