Judge Robert Adrian of Illinois’ Eighth Circuit Court ignited nationwide fury by letting convicted rapist walk free
In the disturbing case of an Illinois teen allowed to walk free after being convicted of rape, all eyes have turned on the judge.
Adams County Judge Robert Adrian sparked nationwide outrage with his ruling on the case of 18-year-old Drew Clinton, who was found was found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl at a graduation party in May 2021.
Clinton pleaded guilty to all charges against him and his defence claimed he believed the sex was consensual.
But despite the October conviction for felony sexual assault, Judge Adrian on 3 January freed Clinton – who faced a minimum sentence of four years – from jail after a mere 148 days, saying that was “plenty of punishment”.
Judge Adrian has subsequently faced heated calls to step down from the bench over his perceived miscarriage of justice.
Who is Judge Adrian?
Judge Adrian, 64, was elected to Illinois’ Eighth Circuit Court in 2010 and won re-election with more than 80 per cent of the vote in 2016.
Prior to taking the bench, he was a partner at the law firm of Adrian and Dunn after spending three years as a public defender and eight years as an assistant state’s attorney.
He holds a law degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, as well as certifications as a mediator and child representative.
He also once served as president of the Adams County Bar Association and on the board of the West Central Child Care Connections.
Why is he making headlines now?
In an extraordinary move on 3 January, Judge Adrian reversed Clinton’s conviction and allowed him to walk free at a hearing where the teen was slated to receive a minimum sentence of four years behind bars.
He claimed that prosecutors had not proved their case – overturning his own previous ruling and effectively preventing Clinton from being tried again.
“By law, the court is supposed to sentence this young man to the Department of Corrections. This court will not do that. That is not just,” he said in court.
“There is no way for what happened in this case that this teenager should go to the Department of Corrections. I will not do that.”
On hearing the decision, the survivor, who revealed her identity in order to speak out about the case and campaign for justice but is not being named by The Independent, said she fled the courtroom.
“I immediately had to leave the courtroom and go to the bathroom. I was crying,” she said, according to WGEM.
Describing her ordeal, she said: “I woke up at my friend’s place with a pillow over my face so I couldn’t be heard and Drew Clinton inside of me.
“I asked him to stop multiple times and he wouldn’t. I finally got off the couch and pushed him off of me and he jumped up and just started playing video games as if nothing had happened.”
Her father, Scott, spoke to The Independent about the ordeal on Thursday and accused Judge Adrian of “muzzling” his daughter by blocking her from delivering a victim impact statement.
“He has destroyed everything we’ve worked at to get my daughter to start healing … in just 15 minutes he destroyed all of that,” the girl’s father said in reference to the judge.
“We were finally seeing her starting to be a little bit more like herself again. The scar was there, and the scab was starting to heal, then the judge ripped it off and we’re back to square one.”
The judge blamed everyone but his daughter’s attacker for what had happened to her, the father said.
“It’s been a rough road, and then for the judge to spit in our faces and blame my daughter and blame the parents and everyone else for what he did is totally unacceptable.
“You’ve taken my 16-year-old daughter, who was starting to live with what happened, and meant she now has to start all over again.”
Scott said he feels that the judge failed to deliver a verdict in accordance with the law.
“Your job as a judge is to uphold the law, not take the law into your own hands… you found him guilty,” he said. “Your job was to sentence him, and because you couldn’t change the law, the only thing you could do was change the verdict. What gives you the right to take the law into your own hands?”
What repercussions has Judge Adrian faced?
Amid immense backlash, Judge Adrian was removed from criminal cases and reassigned to civil proceedings under an administrative order filed by the chief judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a petition demanding the judge face charges over “abuse of judicial discretion and power” has garnered more than 20,000 signatures.
“Judge Robert ‘Bob’ Adrian was the judge who ruled Drew S Clinton is guilty of criminal sexual assault,” the statement on the page reads.
“However, on January 3, 2022, this very same Judge Adrian reversed his own ruling and declared the defendant was not guilty.”
It adds: “They say that Judge Adrian reversed his own ruling because he simply did not want to hand down the sentence that is associated with the crime to which he himself had already found the perpetrator guilty. That is not how the law is to operate.
“Judge Adrian does not have the authority to change the law because he wants to. His job is to uphold and defend the law.”
The petition also shares a comment the judge made in court about the girl’s parents.
“This is what happens when parents do not exercise their parental responsibilities, when we have people, adults, having parties for teenagers, and they allow coeds and female people to swim in their underwear in their swimming pool. And, no, underwear is not the same as swimming suits,” he said. “They allowed 16-year-olds to bring liquor to a party. They provided liquor to underage people, and you wonder how these things happen. Well, that’s how these things happen. The court is totally disgusted with that whole thing.”