Private eye says rolling eyes ruined trial

On Thursday in La Salle County Circuit Court, Ottawa private investigator Ross Radke claimed a court stenographer could have biased jurors against him by rolling her eyes and shaking her head at his trial two months ago.

However, Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. rejected Radke’s claim.

On June 13, a seven-woman, five-man jury found Radke guilty of stealing perforated plastic piping from a residential construction site on Ottawa’s South Side. Radke’s Ottawa attorney, Matthew Burkhart, filed a motion for a new trial, saying Radke did not receive a fair shake in June. The motion was addressed Thursday.

According to Radke’s argument, he, his wife Debbie — who attended the trial — and Burkhart, all saw the stenographer making movements they interpreted as negative commentary on Radke’s defense, such as rolling her eyes, holding her head back, staring at the ceiling and laughing. Some of these movements were made to the prosecutor and the judge’s clerk, but all were in view of the jury. Radke also claimed the stenographer made eye contact with a female juror, with the juror gesturing back.

In contrast, according to Radke, the stenographer was “smiling and swooning” in agreement with the prosecutor’s witnesses as they testified. Further, Burkhart claimed the stenographer was “harsh, hostile and negative” to him before and during the trial.

In sum, Radke said he didn’t testify on his own behalf at the trial because he was afraid he would be “belittled and demeaned” by the stenographer.

La Salle lawyer Louis Bertrand served as co-counsel with Burkhart at Thursday’s hearing because Burkhart had to testify himself.

After testimony Thursday from Radke, his wife and Burkhart, as well as the stenographer and a prosecutor, Ryan rejected Radke’s request for a new trial. Sentencing is set for Wednesday, Aug. 24. Radke, 54, could face jail or probation, as well as a fine.

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