DuPage judge contradicts witnesses, denies misconduct in state hearing

(This article has been updated)

Embattled DuPage Circuit Judge Patrick O’Shea denied to a commission deciding his fate on Tuesday that he lied to Wheaton police about a gun incident, or that he sexually harassed female court employees and retaliated once they complained.

He said that Wheaton police officers who said the judge misled them about a shot he fired that went into the home of a neighbor “was wrong.”

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And he said that one court worker who spent days working in O’Shea’s courtroom before seeking a transfer “just had a bad attitude,” calling his comment that she should  wear a certain outfit more often his effort to make her feel at home in her new job.

The woman testified Monday that the comment did not feel like a compliment at all, and called it one of several incidents that made her uncomfortable and caused her to leave after three days on the job and file a complaint about O’Shea’s conduct.

The woman was not the only court employee who complained about O’Shea’s conduct; after court officials reviewed the complaints, O’Shea retaliated, including seeking the firing of one employee, according to evidence presented to the Illinois Courts Commission.

O’Shea’s testimony came on the second day of hearings before the commission, empowered by state law to decide punishment against errant judges, after the state judicial watchdog, the Judicial Inquiry Board, brought a formal complaint against O’Shea. The discipline, if any, can vary from a reprimand to dismissal from the bench.

In the first day of the hearings on Monday, two DuPage judges who had served with O’Shea testified against him. One, former DuPage Associate Judge Michael Wolfe, complained to officials after O’Shea made comments to an administrative assistant who, for a time, worked jointly for O’Shea and Wolfe.

Wolfe said the judge’s comments to the assistant made him feel uncomfortable on her behalf. She testified Tuesday morning that O’Shea made comments that she felt inappropriate but which she did her best to ignore.

She testified that work became intolerable after Wolfe complained, breaking down in tears as she testified. “His way of acting towards me made me afraid he would do something physically,” she testified.  “That’s how angry he was.”

O’Shea, in his testimony, described his anger as he later talked to the woman’s supervisor. “I’ve never been that angry at work before,” O’Shea said in his testimony.  “I should have handled that much better.”

The gun issue involved O’Shea’s actions after he fired a gun in his apartment that ended up in the unit of a neighbor who was not home. O’Shea did not report the incident; 12 days later, according to testimony, after the neighbor discovered a bullet, officers went to talk to O’Shea.

Officer Edward Waterous testified on Monday that O’Shea claimed at first that a hole in his bedroom wall was from a screwdriver or nail gun accident, then later said that it was probably his son who accidentally shot the pistol.

Waterous testified that it took about 15-20 minutes of questioning before O’Shea admitted that his son was not present and that he was the one that shot the gun, finally helping the detectives locate the weapon.

But O’Shea rejected that account in his testimony on Tuesday: “He was wrong. And he knows he was wrong,”

O’Shea testified that when Waterous and Edward Fanning showed up at his apartment in September 27, 2017, he told the truth of who shot the bullet within a minute of showing the detectives the bullethole in his apartment wall.

Fanning on Tuesday backed up Waterous’ account, and said it took O’Shea 20-30 minutes and three different explanations before he told the truth.

The commissioners questioned O’Shea as to why he didn’t inform the neighbors or the apartment staff about the accidental firing right away. He contended he wasn’t sure if the bullet went all the way through the wall and admitted it would have been better to call the police instead of waiting 12 days to talk with them when they showed up at his apartment.

The hearings are expected to conclude on Wednesday after two witnesses on Wednesday testify.