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Judge says Chesbrough actions ‘deplorable’

William Chesbrough

William Chesbrough

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Updated: July 29, 2012 5:11PM

Tonya Deen would have been satisfied had William Chesbrough Jr. been ordered to spend one night behind bars.

Instead, the disbarred Elgin attorney who bilked over $200,000 from clients who included Deen was sentenced Wednesday to six months in jail, four years’ probation and ordered to pay $204,995 in restitution for the money he stole from families he was representing.

“He got 179 more days than that,” said a smiling Deen, who had been at almost every court appearance in the drawn-out court process that began in 2009. “We are satisfied.”

“I’m happy,” added husband Gary. “It’s over.”

In May, Chesbrough, a former Kane County special prosecutor and the son of iconic Elgin basketball coach William Chesbrough Sr., 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.

Calling Chesbrough’s crimes “deplorable” and “appalling,” Kane County Judge John McAdams said in weighing the nature of the offense, he would have given him prison time because his actions were a “complete breech of trust. On the other hand, “the exemplary life” the defendant led up until these crimes would have leaned the judge toward probation only.

“That’s what makes this case difficult,” McAdams added.

It was hard to reconcile the convicted felon who financially exploited so many clients — including the elderly woman who sat by the Deens in the courtroom — with the man described by a parade of character witnesses who included Chesbrough’s oldest daughter and younger brother. Both praised the disgraced former attorney as a humanitarian and role model who taught them critical lessons in life about compassion, honesty and generosity.

Defense attorney Gary Johnson told the court it was the economic downturn affecting Chesbrough’s real estate law practice, as well as a gambling problem, that led to the “wrong turn he took in his life.”

In arguing for probation only, Johnson said his client already had lost his career and the respect of the community, and struggled with health issues and depression that had led to a suicide attempt.

Avoiding eye contact with his victims, Chesbrough took the stand, spoke of remorse and said he was “ashamed” of the acts he committed.

“This is not the way I conducted myself the vast majority of my life ... . I accept full responsibility ... . There is no excuse for what I did.”

He also declared his intentions to pay all the money back, including restitution to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which reimbursed some of the victims for the money that was stolen.

In addition to jail time, Chesbrough — who was once active in many of Elgin’s civic affairs — will be required to perform 400 hours of community service.

“I will do everything in my control,” he told the judge prior to sentencing, “to make it right.”

After handcuffs were slapped on Chesbrough and he was taken into custody, his longtime friend who testified on his behalf said he believed the sentence was fair.

“It’s a sad case,” noted Mark Clemens. “Who knows why people do what they do ... but who among us can cast the first stone?”

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