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Judicial Misstep Wins Convict New Trial

A former attorney convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme will receive a new trial after an appellate court ruled that his request for a different Will County judge should have been granted. According to the panel in the Third District, Daniel Rozlak of the 13th Circuit abused his discretion by failing to step aside after Robert Gold-Smith rejected the advice of his public defender and sought a new judge to hear his case. Rozlak sentenced Gold-Smith to 30 years following the 2016 bench trial, which hung on a jailhouse conversation in which the Homer Glen man is heard offering an inmate wearing a wire cash for killing his estranged wife.

Gold-Smith appealed the conviction on the grounds that the recording offered insufficient evidence that he’d arranged the contract hit, and that both judge and counsel acted to prejudice the outcome by striking his pro se request. The appeals court agreed, saying that the Illinois criminal code expressly grants defendants the right to an uncontested judicial substitution. It also found that supporting testimony cast doubt on the veracity of the tape, which ws made while Gold-Smith was incarcerated after he’d assaulted his wife outside a  Joliet divorce court. Since disbarred, Gold-Smith faces jail time for that 2010 attack.