Former River Forest foster parent Robert Gaskill was acquitted last February on all counts in one of two criminal sexual abuses cases filed against him in early 2012. But he remains in serious legal jeopardy.
Gaskill remains free on $100,000 bond in the second criminal case, in which he faces a total of 25 counts, including predatory criminal sexual assault. His next court date is Aug. 21 at the Maybrook Courthouse.
In January 2012, two young women who were former wards in Gaskill’s Ashland Avenue foster home made allegations to River Forest police that Gaskill had sexually abused them from an early age.
In a January 2017 court filing, defense attorney Ellen Domph said her client would “rely on the State’s inability to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” And on Feb. 28, Judge Geary Kull agreed in a “directed verdict.”
According to court transcripts, Kull said he could not, as the sole finder of fact after Gaskill waived a jury trial, find Gaskill guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. “As a consequence, I’m directing a finding of not guilty on all counts,” he said.
In acquitting Gaskill, Kull noted that the testimony of Gaskill’s alleged victim was the only evidence presented by the prosecution, legal circumstances that arose after the lead criminal investigator’s testimony was successfully challenged by the defense.
The judge opined that while the alleged victim seemed “genuine,” he also found serious problems with her testimony, particularly her recollection of facts. He praised the young woman, identified only as “MM” in court documents, for her courage, saying “I’m sure it was not easy for her to get up. She showed emotions on a number of occasions, emotions that I think (were) genuine.”
“However she testified about a number of things that she could not recall,” said Kull, who found it problematic that the girl never told anyone else about the alleged abuse by Gaskill, not anyone in the Gaskill household, and one of the mental health professionals who treated her on numerous occasions.
The prosecution’s case was likely hampered by the absence of testimony from the investigating River Forest sergeant. In a June 2015 motion, Domph characterized testimony by Sgt. Marty Grill as “nothing more than a restatement of an inadmissible police report.”
The prosecution had sought to preclude any mentions of Grill’s misconduct in another investigation, and any media reports about it, however that was rendered moot when his testimony was not entered into evidence.
In her 2015 motion Domph hammered away at Grill, who had interrogated Gaskill on Feb. 2, 2012. She referred to his “remarkable inability in November 2012 to provide any descriptions, summarizations, specifications, estimations or details of his February interrogation.”
Domph also noted an “exceedingly suspicious absence of audio from the Feb. 2, 2012 video recording,” and alleged that Gaskill was never asked to provide written memorialization of a verbal confession he purportedly made to police.
She also scoffed at the prosecution’s efforts “to minimize” what she called Grill’s “history of deception.” That is a reference to a criminal case Grill supervised in which he tampered with a written incident report. That action ultimately resulted in the charges against the suspect in that case being dropped, and Grill serving a 30-day suspension.
Domph asked Kull to bar Grill “from testifying as to any out-of-court statements Grill claims Mr. Gaskill made,” and suggested that such conduct, “can irreparably destroy an officer’s credibility.”
— River Forest foster parent acquitted in sex abuse case; other charges remain —