A father’s good name sullied by a son’s crimes
By Denise Crosby email@example.com May 9, 2012 7:52PM
Updated: June 27, 2012 3:44PM
His late father is heralded as a legend.
The son is now a convicted felon.
And one can only wonder what William Chesbrough Sr., longtime boys basketball coach at Elgin High, must have thought as he peered down from heaven Wednesday into the courtroom at the Kane County Judicial Center.
His son, the man who inherited his names but not his integrity, pleaded guilty to three felony counts, including two for theft and one for financial exploitation of an elderly person while representing the victims as their lawyer.
Now that the victims of William Chesbrough Jr. have been paid back, or will be in the future — through the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and court-ordered restitution — I can’t help but focus on the other innocent party: an ailing old man who had to spend the last months of his life shamed by his namesake’s greed and lack of conscience.
The younger Chesbrough was arrested in 2009 on felony charges alleging that he bilked several area families out of a combined $140,000. As the months passed, more victims stepped forward, and the Elgin-area attorney faced nine additional felonies totaling more than $200,000.
When William Sr. died in October 2010, I couldn’t help but wonder whether he wondered if his legacy was the Elgin High School fieldhouse named in his honor or the headlines that chronicled his oldest son’s criminal activities.
The late William Chesbrough had retired in 1985 after an illustrious 35-year coaching career at Elgin, posting a 573-346 record from 1951 to 1985. Under Chesbrough, the Maroons won 21 regional, 10 sectional and three supersectional titles, and placed second in state in 1955. He also was a member of the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Would he have given all those victories and accolades back to be spared the humiliation of his final days?
Certainly a father is not responsible for the actions of his children. We all have free will. We all have the ability to choose right from wrong. But as any parent will tell you, there is always that guilt you carry when one of your offspring messes up.
In addition to his family, William Chesbrough Jr. caused a whole lot of pain to many people, including one of his first victims, Tonya Deen, who attended most of the court hearings that dragged on so absurdly over the last couple of years.
Chesbrough, who had at one time served as a special prosecutor for Kane County, knows everyone in the courthouse, especially the men and women in the black robes. As a result, this case — being handled by the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s Office — went through so many continuances and judges I actually lost count.
“All along we knew it was just a matter of time,” Deen said, not long after she watched Chesbrough plead guilty on Wednesday afternoon. “We have always known the truth: that he had taken the money.”
When Chesbrough is sentenced June 27, he could face as little as two years’ probation or up to 15 years in prison.
Deen knows she and her husband Gary will have to be prepared for the minimum sentence. Yet there is satisfaction in knowing “he will go through life as a convicted felon.”
It is a far cry from one of the quotes about after Chesbrough Sr. after his death: “As good of a basketball coach as he was, he was an even better human being.”
Certainly, part of being a good human is seeking forgiveness and redemption. No matter what comes down next month, here’s hoping 58-year-old Chesbrough can find a way to become the man his father would be proud of.