Illinois Judge Who Reversed 18-Year-Old’s Rape Conviction Has Been Removed

Adams County Judge Robert Adrian said that his removal is “totally a miscarriage of justice.” Disrespectfully, I disagree! Let's revisit how Adrian handled that case, shall we?

Illinois Judge Who Reversed 18-Year-Old’s Rape Conviction Has Been Removed

In 2022, Adams County Judge Robert Adrian’s decision to reverse an 18-year-old man’s rape conviction sparked widespread public outrage—all the more so as Adrian seemed to blame the victim’s parents more than the accused young man, Drew Clinton, for the alleged sexual assault.

Two years later, on Friday, Adrian was removed from the bench after a state oversight panel determined that he engaged in misconduct and attempted to circumvent the law when he reversed the then-18-year-old’s rape conviction. The decision from the Illinois Courts Commission comes after the Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint against Adrian in January 2023, accusing him of “willful misconduct, conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice and that brought the judicial office into disrepute.” The commission held a three-day hearing for the complaint against Adrian in November and rendered its judgment last week, determining that Adrian “has engaged in multiple instances of misconduct, he abused his position of power to indulge his own sense of justice while circumventing the law, he lied under oath on multiple occasions, and he has failed to acknowledge his misconduct.”

Speaking to The Chicago Tribune on Friday, Adrian said that his removal is “totally a miscarriage of justice.” Disrespectfully, I disagree! Let’s revisit how Adrian handled that case, shall we?

In June 2021, a 16-year-old girl who’s since turned 18 and come forward as Cameron Vaughan accused Clinton of sexually assaulting her at a graduation party while she couldn’t consent. In October 2021, Adrian found Clinton guilty of one of three counts of felony sexual assault and Clinton served 148 days in county jail. Then, at a sentencing hearing in January 2022, Adrian reversed the guilty ruling and called Clinton’s 148 days in jail “plenty of punishment.”

“This happened when this teenager—because he was and is a teenager—was two weeks past 18 years old. He has no prior record, none whatsoever. This court will not do that. That is not just,” Adrian said. On top of Adrian’s decision to reverse the guilty ruling, he also seemed to infantilize a white, male alleged assailant, where boys and young men of color who face criminal charges are adultified.

At the same sentencing hearing, Adrian famously blamed the parents of teens who hosted and attended the graduation party rather than Clinton: “They allow 16-year-olds to bring liquor to a party. They provide liquor to underage people, and you wonder how these things happen. Well, that’s how these things happen. The court is totally disgusted with that whole thing,” he said. “This is what’s happened when parents do not exercise their parental responsibilities, when we have people, adults, having parties for teenagers, and they allow coeds and female people to swim in their underwear in their swimming pool.” Of course, alcohol doesn’t cause rape; this is a victim-blaming line of thinking that absolves rapists and abusers of their decision to harm someone in a vulnerable state.

In March 2022, when the Judicial Inquiry Board first began looking into allegations of misconduct against Adrian for reversing the guilty ruling against Clinton, Adrian questioned Vaughan’s victimhood: “The reality is that I had second thoughts on the finding of guilty shortly after the several day trial. I found haunting Clinton being in jail pending the hearing on the post-trial motions,” he said in written statements to the board. “My focus on reconsideration was the issue of consent. The People must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt [Vaughan] was unable to consent. I finally concluded it had not.” Later that year, Adrian spoke to news outlets about how “the left” was trying to “cancel” him.

Scott Vaughan, Vaughan’s father, told the Tribune on Friday that he was “so unbelievably happy” in the wake of Adrian’s removal: “He can’t hurt anybody else. He can’t ruin anyone else’s life.” Back in 2022, shortly after the reversal, Scott told Jezebel that Adrian’s decision had “opened the wound again” for his teenage daughter, who remained traumatized. “Yes, my daughter made a lot of bad decisions that night—a lot. But regardless of the situation, at the end of the day, whatever decisions that were made, she still did not make the decision to get sexually violated,” Scott said. Even if all the girls at the party “jumped in [the pool] naked,” he said, “it still doesn’t give that guy the right to put a pillow over her face and sexually assault her like that.”

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