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Crime & Courts

Change of venue sought in Kendall County Food Pantry theft trial

William Crowley (far left) and Ken Spaeth (far right) appear in Kendall County court Tuesday morning before Judge Timothy McCann. Special prosecutor Charles Colburn has his back to the camera, and defense attorney Edward Edens is standing next to his client, Spaeth. Crowley's attorney Gary Johnson is partially hidden.
William Crowley (far left) and Ken Spaeth (far right) appear in Kendall County court Tuesday morning before Judge Timothy McCann. Special prosecutor Charles Colburn has his back to the camera, and defense attorney Edward Edens is standing next to his client, Spaeth. Crowley's attorney Gary Johnson is partially hidden.

Attorneys for the two men accused of stealing from the Kendall County Food Pantry in Yorkville told a judge Tuesday they will be asking that the case be moved out of Kendall County.

The attorneys also objected to allowing photographs and audio recordings of the court proceedings, which Judge Timothy McCann overruled.

Kenneth Spaeth, 55, the former treasurer of the pantry and husband of the pantry's former director, Maria Spaeth, and William Crowley, 77, Maria Spaeth's father, are accused of stealing between $150,000 and $200,000 from the pantry's coffers, according to law enforcement sources. Both men appeared in court for the first time Tuesday morning in Yorkville.

Aurora attorney Gary Johnson represented Crowley and Naperville attorney Edward Edens represented Kenneth Spaeth during the hearing. Representing the prosecution was Charles Colburn of the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Special Prosecution Unit, who was assigned to the case in July by a Kendall County judge.

Edens told McCann he would be filing a request for a change of venue, and Johnson said he would be filing the same request, asking that the proceedings be held outside of Kendall County.

Johnson had filed an objection to an "extended media coverage" request from WSPY radio. The circuit's extended media coverage policy allows for the audio recording, photography and videography of court proceedings. The media outlet that files the request with the court is then designated as the coordinator for all media outlets who wish to use audio, photography or video.

Edens argued that such media coverage would taint the potential jury pool, and that it would impact the Spaeth children, that the situation was "very painful" to them and that such coverage would cause "damage to their psyche." Johnson agreed with Edens and said there was "no reason" for photographs or other media recording of the case.

However, McCann disagreed, stating that the Illinois Supreme Court has determined that such media coverage should be allowed unless for a specific reason.

Johnson said Crowley's home is in Arizona, although he has a place to stay in Illinois, and asked that Crowley be allowed to travel to and from Arizona. He said his client has a March 15 court date in Arizona related to the case and is out on a $25,000 bond.

Colburn said he would be fine with booking and processing Crowley here in Kendall County, with a recognizance bond of $25,000, with the understanding that the Arizona courts would forward its bond to Kendall County. McCann agreed on the recognizance bond, which is simply a written promise that he would appear in court in the future, and to allow Crowley to travel so he can make his Arizona court date.

A future court date for arraignment for both men was set for March 28 at 1 p.m. at the Kendall County Courthouse.

Yorkville police served a search warrant on the pantry and a rural Yorkville residence June 1 of last year, following reports by pantry volunteers of suspicious transactions and possible theft of funds from the pantry's accounts, according to police. A week after the police search, Kenneth and Maria Spaeth resigned from their positions at the pantry. On June 21, Maria Spaeth was found dead in her vacation home in Lake Holiday of a prescription drug overdose, according to DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller.

A Kendall County judge appointed a special prosecutor to the case in July. State's Attorney Eric Weis, who previously served on the pantry's board, said he could be called as a witness in the case. In September, the Yorkville police handed over their completed investigation to Colburn.

Indictments were returned by a Kendall County grand jury in January for charges of felony theft against both men. Spaeth was arrested at his family's home in Lake Holiday, and Crowley was arrested at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to police. Both are out on bond.

The indictments state that both Kenneth Spaeth and Crowley "knowingly exerted unauthorized control over property of Kendall County Food Pantry, being United States currency, having a total value in excess of $10,000, intending to deprive the Kendall County Food Pantry permanently of the use of the property."

New leadership took over the pantry in August and it now has a new name, the Kendall County Community Food Pantry.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the attorney representing William Crowley in a photo caption. His name is Gary Johnson.

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