ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The attorney for Winnebago Coroner William Hintz has hit back at Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul for “tainting the potential jury pool” by implying guilt in media statements yesterday after Hintz was accused of stealing property from the dead.
“By interjecting his opinion on Mr. Hintz’s guilt or innocence in his media comments yesterday while the ink was still drying on the new Indictment handed down by a Winnebago County Grand Jury, Illinois Attorney Kwame Raoul has deliberately attempted and likely succeeded in tainting the potential jury pool in these cases and promoting public condemnation of Mr. Hintz, thereby depriving him of any chance of enjoying the rights guaranteed him by the Illinois and United States Constitutions to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial in these pending cases,” Hintz’s attorney, Mark Byrd said in a statement on Friday.
Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz is facing six additional felony counts of theft and six counts of official misconduct for allegedly stealing property from the dead.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed indictments on Wednesday alledging Hintz stole $2,500 from family members in order to recover the remains of their homeless loved ones, but kept the money for himself.
The indictment also alleges Hintz stole $14,500 in cash that belonged to deceased individuals, out of the coroner’s office evidence vault.
“The defendant has demonstrated a clear pattern of using the office of the Winnebago County coroner to line his pockets,” Raoul said. “The defendant’s actions took advantage of grieving families and abused the trust of Winnebago County residents.”
Byrd retorted, saying Raoul’s comments “serve no legitimate law enforcement or prosecutorial purpose other than to raise public disgust toward my client and do violence to his efforts to seek justice.”
Byrd continued, saying, “Moving forward, Mr. Hintz will be entering a Plea of Not Guilty to the new charges… meanwhile, I will be investigating and researching what can be done to protect Mr. Hintz’s rights to a fair trial in these cases in light of Mr. Raoul’s reckless misconduct in this case.”
Last year, the Winnebago County Sheriff asked the Illinois State Police to conduct an investigation which led to Hintz and his wife, Michelle’s, arrests. The couple were both charged in a fraud scheme that cost Winnebago County $15,818 in stolen funds.