Column: Samantha Harer Verdict Hurts Jim Glasgow's Legacy
JOLIET, IL — Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow has a Meet The State’s Attorney web page, and it contains a long list of accomplishments for the county’s chief prosecutor, a Joliet product who is serving his seventh four-year term in office.
One section highlights Glasgow’s commitment to safeguarding children, noting the creation of the high technology crimes unit, the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center and the Paws 4 Kids. Another points out Glasgow’s successes fighting domestic violence. Glasgow mentions how he successfully prosecuted Drew Peterson, obtaining a 38-year prison sentence for the 2004 murder of Peterson’s third wife, Kathleen Savio, in “a landmark case that attracted international attention.”
In addition, Glasgow noted he successfully prosecuted Christopher Vaughn, obtaining a life sentence for the murder of Vaughn’s wife and three children, in Channahon near Interstate 55.
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Glasgow lists nearly 20 separate awards he’s received over the years including the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce 2021 Rabbi Hershman Community Service Award, the Senior Services of Will County 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) 2020 America’s Top Ten Animal Defenders and State Representative Natalie Manley 2019 Person of Distinction Award.
As his numerous awards and long list of criminal justice advocacy programs show, Glasgow has had a very productive career serving in the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the voters of Will County have benefited from his many positive contributions to that elected office.
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My biggest complaint about Glasgow’s performance when it came to the Samantha Harer case was his overall lack of curiosity. Glasgow held no press conferences to talk about her death. He didn’t issue any press releases talking about reopening or revisiting the investigation, even after a plethora of forensic evidence began to raise doubts about the Channahon Police Department’s initial rush to investigate Harer’s death as a suicide. The Channahon Police administration’s role in handling Harer’s death investigation meant that Crest Hill police officer Phil Flores would not be the focus of a criminal investigation that could lead to murder charges.
Interestingly enough, Glasgow’s team of top prosecutors for Will County was already familiar with Flores. In 2016, the Crest Hill police officer was investigated by the Illinois State Police for a sexual assault allegation. Flores was accused of sexually assaulting a female friend after he stayed overnight in the living room of her apartment after the two re-acquainted at a bar on Plainfield Road.
Later, the woman went to the Crest Hill Police Department and filed a police report, accusing Flores of raping her while she slept. In the end, Glasgow’s office declined to prosecute Flores in the sexual assault case. Two years later, Flores found himself in Channahon, calling 911, claiming his current girlfriend just shot herself while he was on the other side of her locked bedroom door.
Glasgow seemed willing to take the information being spoon-fed to him by the Channahon police, the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force, his fellow staff, rather than doing his own exploring, his own investigating.
From my perspective, it seemed once Channahon issued a press release announcing Harer’s death was being ruled a suicide, as a result of a single gunshot wound to her head, Glasgow’s interest in the case waned.
Then, last Thursday, Glasgow found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to explain his stance in light of a $15 million civil wrongful death judgment issued by Will County Circuit Judge John Anderson in favor of Samantha Harer’s parents, Kevin and Heather Harer.
“The evidence demonstrates that Felipe made offensive and harmful physical contact with Samantha, without valid cause. The conduct was undertaken with reckless and intentional disregard to Samantha’s life,” Judge Anderson ruled. “As a direct and proximate cause of Felipe’s misconduct, Samantha suffered severe physical and emotional injuries, including death. In summary, the Court finds that Felipe likely caused Samantha’s death.”
Anderson further stated in his ruling, “the evidence demonstrates that Felipe likely shot and killed Samantha.”
In his carefully crafted ruling, Judge Anderson stressed that “the Court’s findings today do not constitute a criminal conviction. The Court is mindful that a criminal charge entails a high standard of proof, whereas a civil case typically entails a preponderance standard. But, even under a clear and convincing standard, if it applied, the Court’s ruling today would be unchanged.
“Further, the Court takes no position on whether Felipe ought to be charged; that is not the Court’s decision to make. Besides, the Court is not in a position to understand why Felipe was not charged with Samantha’s death.”
After Anderson’s ruling, Glasgow’s staff issued a statement, indicating Glasgow does not plan to charge Flores with murder. Glasgow is still on record, to this day, of supporting the discredited theory that Harer — while naked — fatally shot herself in her bedroom, even though no gunshot residue was found on her hands, but it was found on Flores, and Flores’ DNA was recovered from her Smith & Wesson handgun, as proven by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean.
“If nothing else, the idea that it was a clear suicide has been debunked,” Bonjean told Joliet Patch’s editor on Thursday.
One of Bonjean’s lingering questions is why Glasgow and the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office “refused to at least have a grand jury to determine if probable cause even existed to charge Phil Flores.
“They fumbled the ball,” Bonjean said. “They didn’t even ask ISP (Illinois State Police) to do the analysis of whether Flores’ DNA was on the gun. No one asked Flores why there was a big dent in the wall where Samantha’s head would have been.
“They remained willfully ignorant. They protected the badge, too. There is no other inference to draw. They are incompetent, but not that incompetent.”
Now in his 70s, if Glasgow seeks another four-year term of office in 2024, he will be serving as the Will County State’s Attorney into his late seventies. Glasgow was first elected in 1992, re-elected n 1996 and after losing in 2000, he defeated Jeff Tomczak in 2004 and has remained in office.
For the sake of Glasgow’s political legacy, let’s hope he realizes that serving another four years in office isn’t such a wise idea. After seven terms in office, it’s probably best for Glasgow to step back, enjoy retirement and let someone with more energy, someone who is more of a go-getter, take the reins of power and lead the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office starting in 2025.
To repeat, Glasgow has had a remarkable and stellar career as the state’s attorney, but his role in bringing justice to Samantha Harer shows that some of the air’s seeping out of his tires.
On June 30, I asked Bonjean whether charges will ever be filed by the Will County State’s Attorneys against Flores in connection with Harer’s death.
“If there is an ounce of honor in that office, they will,” she said. “Let a jury decide. Based on the facts as we know them, if Phil Flores was anyone but a cop, he would have been indicted and faced trial.”
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