Judge Kicks Prosecutor Out of Court for Liking a Facebook Comment Critical of Him

An Illinois judge threw a prosecutor out of court for liking a Facebook comment that criticized the judge, who made a controversial recent decision to throw out an 18-year-old's sexual assault conviction.

Adams County Judge Robert Adrian found 18-year-old Drew Clinton guilty of felony sexual assault in October before throwing out the conviction because he felt the nearly five months Clinton had spent in jail was adequate punishment and refusing to sentence Clinton to the mandatory four-year sentence for a sexual assault conviction.

Wednesday, Adrian reportedly kicked Adams County lead trial attorney Josh Jones out of the courtroom, which Jones was in for a case unrelated to the sexual assault sentencing, according to the Herald-Whig newspaper in Quincy, Illinois.

Adrian reportedly said his wife showed him a Facebook comment Jones had liked that criticized Adrian's recent decision, and because of how upset he was, he said, "I can't be fair with you," before telling Jones to get out of the courtroom, the Herald-Whig reported.

The decision to throw out the sexual assault conviction drew significant criticism toward Adrian, with the prosecutor in the case, Anita Rodriguez, saying she had never seen a decision like it before in her 40-year career, according to the Herald-Whig.

Illinois Judge Prosecutor Facebook Comment
An Illinois judge reportedly threw a prosecutor out of court for liking a Facebook comment criticizing a recent decision the judge had made. In this photo illustration, the Facebook logo is seen on the screen of an iPhone on January 31, 2019, in Paris. Chesnot/Getty Images

The prosecutor in the case said her "heart is bleeding for the victim," and an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse said Adrian's ruling sends a "chilling message to other rape victims that their behavior, not the rapists' will be judged," according to the Herald-Whig.

The uproar stems from the case that started with Clinton's arrest after a May 30 graduation party.

During the trial, the judge heard evidence that the victim had told police she'd attended the party, where she drank alcohol and swam in a pool in her underwear before she eventually passed out. She said she woke up to a pillow pushed on her face and Clinton sexually assaulting her.

According to the police report, the teen was able to push Clinton off of her and then told a friend what happened. She later told her father, who called the police.

In October, Adrian found Clinton guilty of felony sexual assault, but during a January 3 sentencing hearing, he said he would not impose the mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison.

"Mr. Clinton has served almost five months in the county jail, 148 days," Adrian said, according to the court transcript of the hearing posted online by local media. "For what happened in this case, that is plenty of punishment. That would be a just sentence."

"There is no way," the judge explained, "for what happened in this case that this teenager should go to the Department of Corrections. I will not do that."

But the judge said if he were to rule that the sentencing statute he was bound to follow was unconstitutional, his decision would be overturned, and Clinton would be ordered to prison. In order to avoid an appeal he believed would be successful, Adrian said what he could do was determine that prosecutors had failed to "prove their case" and dismiss the sexual assault charge.

Rodriguez said she was worried how the ruling might affect the victim. The trial "did a lot for her healing process, but now she's back to where we were at."

The Quincy Area Network Against Domestic Abuse said the ruling sends a dangerous message.

"The judgement reinforces the fact that standards for women have always been impossibly high while they are impossibly low for men," the group said in a statement.

But Clinton's attorney, Drew Schnack, said the ultimate verdict was the correct one because the prosecution did not prove its case and the evidence was not strong enough to warrant a conviction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Specialists from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) sexual assault hotline are available 24/7 via phone (1 (800) 656-4673) and online chat. Additional support from the group is also accessible via the mobile app.