EDWARDSVILLE — A Madison County grand jury has indicted an Alton police officer on an official misconduct charge in connection with the destruction of evidence that was uncovered this past summer.
On July 23, 2014, it was brought to the attention of the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office that items of evidence from pending criminal cases had been improperly disposed of by the Alton Police Department’s evidence officer, Jonathan K. Forrler, dating back to 2013. State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons reached out to U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton, the Illinois State Police and the FBI to assist with an investigation.
As the investigation progressed, the State’s Attorney’s Office filed notice in 130 criminal cases, advising defendants and their attorneys of the destruction of evidence in their cases. During the investigation, it was discovered that Forrler destroyed forensic evidence in a misdemeanor sexual abuse case that was pending at the time. This was prohibited by law. Following the conclusion of the investigation, prosecutors presented the evidence to the grand jury, which returned an indictment against Forrler on Thursday, Dec. 4.
The indictment states Forrler destroyed a Missouri state sexual assault evidence collection kit and clothing on July 8, 2013.
In a prepared statement, Alton Police Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons said the Alton Police Department is investigating the incident and will take appropriate action upon completion of the investigation.
"The Alton Police Department has worked closely with the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Illinois State Police, and federal authorities to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation of the destruction of evidence at the Alton Police Department," Simmons said.
"While the seriousness of this incident cannot be understated, it should not overshadow the outstanding work and professionalism of the entire Alton Police Department," Simmons said.
Mayor Brant Walker said the city and police department have worked closely with county, state and federal officials during the investigation.
"The police department is currently conducting an internal investigation of this serious incident and the city of Alton will take all appropriate corrective action to ensure that such an incident does not occur again," Walker said in a prepared statement.
"It is important to understand that individual actions do not reflect on the entire police department, and I remain confident in the department’s ability to protect our city," Walker said.
Forrler, 38, faces one count of official misconduct, a Class 3 felony. If convicted, the charge carries a penalty ranging from probation up to two to five years in prison. His bond was set at $20,000 by Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli.
At the time the issue was discovered and notices filed with the Madison County Circuit Court, Gibbons stated that “as the chief law enforcement officer for Madison County, it is my constitutional and ethical obligation to ensure that justice and fairness are always given the highest priority and guarantee in our criminal justice system, and in this matter, that begins by giving criminal defendants full and fair disclosure of the destruction of evidence in their cases.”
He reiterated his stance following Thursday’s indictment and confirmed that if any other instances of evidence destruction are uncovered, notices immediately will be filed with the court.
Gibbons thanked Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Vucich, who coordinated the investigation for his office in conjunction with the Illinois State Police, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, Mayor Brant Walker and the Alton Police Department.
“Everyone was supportive and worked together to fully investigate and resolve this serious matter,” Gibbons said in a press release Friday from the State’s Attorney’s Office.