Convicted Illinois Embezzler Seeks to Withdraw Guilty Plea; Judge Postpones Jail Term

Confessed union and benefit fund embezzler, Patrick Stiles, was due to surrender Apr. 23 to serve a two year prison term, but Kane County (Ill.) Circuit Judge Donald Hudson agreed Apr. 22 to let Stiles stay free on bond until his motion to allow the ex-boss to withdraw his guilty plea  is considered. The motion seeks to have his conviction vacated so the case can go to trial, said defense attorney Philip Collins III. “A lot of innocent people plead guilty, oftentimes when they could show reasonable doubt, and we believe there’s reasonable doubt here,” said Collins, who replaced Fred Morelli Jr. as Stiles’ attorney. Asst. Kane County State’s Atty. Joseph Cullen said his office would oppose Stiles’ attempt to withdraw his plea. A hearing on the motion has yet to be scheduled.

Stiles pled guilty Mar. 21 to one count of felony theft in a plea agreement. He was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $244,000 to the Aurora Firefighters Local 99 and the Aurora Firefighters Relief Ass’n. Aurora police testified in Oct. 2001 that Stiles stole some $350,000 from the two union organizations, but the restitution was based on a $275,000 settlement in a related civil suit brought by Local 99 and the Relief Ass’n against Stiles. In that settlement, Stiles agreed to turn over about $64,000 in retirement funds. Stiles, who resigned Jan. 15, 2001, after 11 years with the Aurora Fire Dep’t, was secretary-treasurer of the Relief Ass’n, which aids members who get injured or sick, and held the same post in the local.

If Hudson allows Stiles to withdraw his plea, prosecutors could reinstate the all initial charges against him. If convicted, Stiles could face a sentence ranging from probation to 15 years in prison. [Chi. Trib. 4/24/02]