Retired public defender disbarred for misconduct

Retired public defender disbarred for misconduct

The recently retired Coles County public defender has been disbarred by the Illinois Supreme Court after being accused of unwanted sexual advances toward three clients while he was public defender.

Lonnie Lutz, 64, agreed to the disbarment, effective Jan. 17, according to James Grogan, deputy administrator of Illinois' Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission.

Lutz, a resident of Charleston and graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, stepped down as Coles County public defender last June, after 33 years in the post. He was replaced by Anthony Ortega, a 10-year employee of the Champaign County public defender's office.

All three of the complaints against Lutz — described in the ARDC documents as acts of battery, overreaching the attorney-client relationship and engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice — stemmed from incidents that occurred between July 2010 and August 2012.

— In the first instance in 2010, Lutz represented a woman in a criminal theft case. He asked her to come to his office on a Saturday. After she arrived, Lutz placed his hand on her legs and rubbed her leg slowly. She also said that he rubbed her neck and shoulders. As she was leaving, he hugged the woman closely. She filed a police report that day, and Lutz later withdrew from her case. No criminal charges were filed.

— In August 2012, Lutz was appointed to represent a second woman in a theft case. He again asked the defendant to meet him at his office on a Saturday. After she arrived at his office, he asked her personal questions about her relationship with her boyfriend, and touched her face. She told him she felt weird about him touching her. After she missed a court date, Lutz told her that he had covered for her and that "there are different ways to pay me back."

Following another hearing, Lutz sat with her on a bench outside the courtroom and touched her thigh, over her pants. She said that she moved away. Following another court date, he again sat next to the defendant on a bench outside of the courtroom and touched her thigh over her pants. She objected, stood up and left.

— In October 2012, Lutz was appointed to represent a third woman in a drug possession case. While meeting in his office, she said that Lutz kissed her on the lips, rubbed her back and touched her body over her clothing. He then invited her to attend a conference with him in Springfield that weekend. She left the office.

A week later, following another court hearing, she met Lutz at his office. He locked the door, kissed her and again touched her body over her clothes. She started to leave, and he told her to come back the following Saturday "when no one was there."

The woman left the office and hired a private attorney for the case.

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