Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed November 21, 2013

People v. Radojcic, 2013 IL 114197

Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (1st) 102698.

      JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      This Cook County appeal decides an evidentiary question in a criminal case. No trial has yet occurred.

      Budimir Radojcic, two daughters of his, his attorney Mark Helfand, and Christa Patterson, the office manager of one of his companies, were indicted by a grand jury of 52 financial crimes. In 2009, after discovery, the State indicated its intent to call Helfand as a witness in exchange for use immunity. Both Helfand and Radojcic objected, asserting the attorney-client privilege, and the circuit court struck Helfand’s name from the State’s witness list. The appellate court reversed and the Illinois Supreme Court, in this decision, affirmed the appellate court.

      The scheme alleged involved the defrauding of several mortgage lenders including Wells Fargo Bank, Credit Suisse Financial Corporation, Countrywide Mortgage Corporation, and others. It was also alleged that Radojcic, at a time when he owed the Internal Revenue Service over $2 million, had fraudulently obtained rental checks exceeding $500,000 from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

      The crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege is at issue here. It is applicable when a client seeks or obtains the services of an attorney in furtherance of criminal or fraudulent activity. In this case, what was available to the circuit court for making its ruling was the grand jury testimony in transcript form, rather than live testimony. However, the supreme court said that the available grand jury testimony met the standard of providing a reasonable basis to suspect the perpetration, or attempted perpetration, of a crime or fraud by Radojcic and also a reasonable basis to suspect that his communications with Helfand were in furtherance of the mortgage fraud scheme. The State had thus met its evidentiary burden of overcoming the privilege, and the court found no need for Helfand to be examined in camera prior to testifying at trial. The only attorney-client communications which are subject to disclosure are those which relate to the real estate transactions identified in the indictment.