State's attorney says he's grateful for jury that acquitted Daniel Rak of murder
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said he is not disappointed, but grateful, for the jury that found a 31-year-old man innocent of the first-degree murder of his father.
Daniel Rak also was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter, but the jury did deliver a guilty verdict for felony aggravated domestic battery.
"I am not disappointed in the verdict," McMahon said. "We presented all of the evidence to the jury. I'm grateful for the time and attention of the jury in this case. That's our process."
Rak called authorities to his father's home on Engel Road near Sycamore in the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 2016, after finding Jeffrey Rak, 58, unresponsive in his bedroom.
Daniel Rak told sheriff's investigators he punched his father at least twice in the face and threw a bottle of vodka at him the night of Feb. 11. Rak was angry at his father, a former veterinarian and alcoholic, who walked in his son's girlfriend taking a bath and saw her naked.
Four months later a grand jury indicted him on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated domestic battery. Prosecutors argued that Rak's punches caused a subdural hematoma, or bleeding on his father's brain, and that Rak knew his actions could cause his father great bodily harm or even death.
At trial, Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress argued investigators rushed to judgment, that Jeffrey Rak's death could have been caused by other factors, such as seizures or heart disease, and a medical expert disputed the prosecution's timeline as to when the elder Rak's brain injury occurred.
After six days of testimony, the jury returned its verdict in less than three hours.
"Obviously, and it happens in so many cases, reasonable, educated people can completely disagree about what the right result is," Childress said after the trial. "This time, justice was served."
McMahon said prosecutors gave jurors every possible option to decide Rak's fate.
"We presented a very professional case. I'm proud of the work we did, not just the two lawyers (Assistant State's Attorneys Alex Bederka and Lori Anderson), but the entire staff," McMahon said. "We consulted with not one but two medical experts. We made a decision that was consistent with the evidence as we knew it. Nobody was in a hurry to charge the case. Mr. Rak was found guilty of a very serious criminal offense. That was proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
Aggravated domestic battery is punishable by three to seven years in prison, and a defendant must serve 85 percent of any sentence instead of the customary 50 percent for most crimes under state law.
Judge D.J. Tegeler is tentatively set to sentence Rak on Sept. 8. After nearly 14 months being held at the jail on $950,000 bail, Rak is free on a personal recognizance bond.
A bond hearing is set for Friday for Rak, who has been staying with his mother, who came in from Arizona for the trial.
McMahon said the criticism from the Rak case and in general will not discourage him from doing his job.
"We charge when we think we have sufficient evidence," he said. "We make decisions on available evidence and it's my legal obligation to prosecute crimes committed in the county. That's what we did in this case and that's what we will continue to do."