The feds, the Chicago cops, the Joliet Police Department and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services all probed the alleged teenage sexcapades of 32-year-old Margarita Hernandez, and the Joliet woman's lawyer wants to see what they supposedly have on her.
"When I don't see stuff done as a matter of routine protocol, I get very suspicious," attorney Steve Landis said during a Friday morning hearing in Will County court.
But Assistant State's Attorney Sara Shutts told Judge Edward Burmila that Landis is looking for stuff she doesn't possess. Landis countered that once Shutts' office decided to prosecute Hernandez, they were responsible for turning all evidence over to him.
Landis—and the Joliet police—have said the case against Hernandez started when a Chicago teen's mother learned her son allegedly had sex with Hernandez. The mother went to the Chicago police, and the Chicago police turned the case over to the FBI.
The FBI obtained a search warrant, Landis said, and agents seized all of the computers, digital files and cell phones from the far west side house Hernandez shares with her "boyfriend," 76-year-old John Gabriel.
The FBI then brought the Joliet police into the case, and Joliet detectives arrested Hernandez while the feds reportedly continued with their own investigation.
The Joliet police said Hernandez and the 15-year-old she had sex with were first introduced through a friend of the teen. The friend's mother is Hernandez's cousin, police said.
Hernandez's elderly boyfriend Gabriel, a former weekly newspaperman, has said Hernandez is nothing more than a patsy in a frame-up orchestrated by the numerous enemies he has made over the years in the cutthroat world of community news.
Among these enemies vaguely identified by Gabriel was a Romeoville police officer he claimed once shot at him. Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey said he knows nothing about one of his men shooting at Gabriel, and Gabriel later said he was never fired on. He did still insist Hernandez was the target of "crooked policemen and crooked politicians" looking to settle a score with him.
"There's a lot of people I have angered," Gabriel said, adding, "They're punishing an innocent girl to try to get even with me, and it is a dirty, rotten shame."
Whether Gabriel's conspiracy theory turns out to be right or wrong, Landis said he can't tell from the meager discovery evidence turned over by prosecutors. In fact, Landis said, he has received nothing from DCFS or the FBI, and all the Chicago cops came up with was some handwritten field notes.
"We need these things," Landis said of the missing evidence, including the confiscated computers he wants so his own expert can examine them.
"I can't even see the basis of their search warrant for seizing these things," Landis said.
Judge Burmila said he will review the evidence from DCFS and the Chicago police in private before deciding whether Landis should get it. He said he will wait on what to do with the evidence from the feds until he completes his review of the state and Chicago police material.