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Will County Judge: Lawyer erred in defending himself

Published: Friday, April 1, 2016 3:02 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 1, 2016 7:46 p.m. CDT
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Robert W. Gold-Smith

JOLIET – The Homer Glen attorney who was found guilty of trying to hire another inmate to kill his wife while he was locked up in the Will County jail asked Friday to represent himself again.

Robert W. Gold-Smith said he was "temporarily sort of shocked" and "sort of under duress" when Judge Daniel Rozak found him guilty of solicitation of murder at the conclusion of a bench trial. Gold-Smith had asked for the Will County Public Defender's office to represent him in post-trial motions, but has now changed his mind.

"I believe it's in my best interest. I know the case better than anybody," said Gold-Smith, 53.

Gold-Smith was going through a contentious divorce in 2010 when he allegedly punched his wife outside a courtroom. When he was put in jail in March 2011 on charges of violating an order of protection, he approached a handful of inmates and offered to pay for her death, according to trial testimony.

Gold-Smith told Rozak his motions to introduce new evidence and reconsider the case will move faster than if an assistant public defender had to review everything.

"[Solicitation of murder] is a mandatory minimum of 20 years at 85 percent and you're worried about a couple of months?" Rozak asked. The judge then "apologized in advance" and offered a frank assessment of Gold-Smith's criminal defense as "not only ineffective, you're inept."

"You have to realize that you did an absolutely terrible job representing yourself," Rozak said. "If I want a will or a real estate deal you might be the best attorney in the state of Illinois, but you're a terrible trial lawyer."

Before his arrest Gold-Smith worked as a bankruptcy attorney.

"If I told you I needed heart surgery, you'd refer me to a gynecologist. You'd say what's the difference, they're both doctors," Rozak said. "If you could sue yourself for ineffective assistance [of counsel] you'd have a dead-bang winner."

Rozak said Gold-Smith's decision to represent himself despite his lack of experience in criminal law was "the best thing the state had going for it" with a weak case.

"If you'd sat there, shut up and kept quiet, maybe – just maybe – my decision would've been different, but every hole that was in their case – you filled in," the judge concluded.

Undeterred, Gold-Smith told Rozak his new motion "is a game changer" and he wants to review recordings made at the county jail before his next hearing April 18.

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