Embattled judge found guilty of fraud resigns

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Cook County Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien, shown leaving the Dirksen Federal Courthouse last year.
| Sun-Times file photo

A Cook County judge who was convicted of fraud earlier this year has effectively resigned from the bench, since she lost her bid for a new trial or a reversal of her guilty verdict, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled.

Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien’s lawyer agreed and said she has already signed the necessary paperwork to end her judicial career.

“As set forth in the attachment to this order, O’Brien notified this court on February 21, 2018, that if her post-trial motions for acquittal or a new trial in her federal criminal case were denied, she would resign her judicial position immediately….The federal district court denied those motions on September 4, 2018….O’Brien has therefore resigned her position as judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, effective Sept. 4, 2018,” the Supreme Court said in court documents.

O’Brien’s attorney, Steve Greenberg said that his client had always said that she would resign if her post trial motions were denied.

“Jessica sent in her paperwork that she is resigning and withdrawing from retention as soon as the judge had ruled, as she said she would,” Greenberg said.

“She is now going to focus on her family, her children and her future as she prepares for sentencing.”

O’Brien filed paperwork last spring seeking retention.

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A federal jury found O’Brien guilty of fraud Feb. 15. She remained on the bench six months later.Though she was no longer performing any judicial duties, she has been paid $132,000 so far this year, according to a state comptroller database.

The Illinois Courts Commission was set to consider at a Sept. 24 hearing whether to suspend O’Brien from her position without pay. O’Brien’s lawyers insisted the Courts Commission — the body authorized to discipline judges — does not have the authority to “discipline a judge for conduct which occurs prior to the judge’s election to the bench.”

Federal jurors found O’Brien guilty earlier this year after prosecutors said she pocketed $325,000 during a mortgage fraud scheme that took place more than a decade ago — before she became a judge.

O’Brien’s sentencing hearing is set for Oct. 9.

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