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Comments on story about sex offender may lead to jail time
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

John Hedges


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Published: 1/14/2009 2:00 PM | Updated: 1/14/2009 5:34 PM

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Round Lake Park police say an online tip from an ex-girlfriend was what sparked an investigation of a convicted sex offender just one day after he was put on probation.

Police Chief George Filenko said Wednesday witness interviews indicated John Hedges, 41, of 911 Barbara Court, was in violation of a 30-month probationary sentence he received Friday after entering a negotiated guilty plea on possessing child pornography.

Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Mary Stanton said she expects to receive reports and will decide whether to pursue a probation violation in court. She said Hedges could have received 2 to 5 years in prison or local jail time for his crime at his sentencing last Friday.

Authorities built a case against Hedges after his former girlfriend reported finding a DVD with pornographic images on Sept. 21, 2007. Round Lake Park police obtained a search warrant and removed a computer and about 35 DVDs that prosecutors said included lewd photographs of girls aged 6 to 16.

Filenko said one condition of Hedges' probation was to not have unsupervised contact with anyone younger than 18. Hedges followed the law and registered with police as a sex offender and claimed he lived alone after his sentencing last Friday, the chief said.

As it turned out, Filenko scrolled through anonymous online comments that were posted on a story about Hedges in last Saturday's Daily Herald. One poster - the same ex-girlfriend who reported him in 2007 - stated Hedges was living with a woman and "her young kids."

Filenko said the online comment prompted him to send an investigator to Hedges' trailer home Saturday, but neither a woman nor children were found there.

But Round Lake Park investigators canvassed the Timber Creek mobile homes Monday and received information from neighbors and others that a woman and her 10-year-old daughter were living with Hedges.

"We work very closely with the management there," Filenko said. "They confirmed the woman was paying a portion of the rent on the guy's trailer."

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services officials were notified about the situation and ordered the woman and her 10-year-old girl out of Hedges' home Monday, Filenko said.

Filenko said authorities called Hedges' 36-year-old former girlfriend and she confirmed she posted the information about the sex offender's living arrangements on the Daily Herald's Web site. He said the woman now lives out of state.

"I just want the public to understand the judicial system does work and we keep track of these things," Filenko said. "We don't take them lightly."

Hedges' plea bargain, accepted by Lake County Circuit Judge Fred Foreman, also required him to perform 200 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine. Foreman ordered Hedges to allow probation officers to examine his computer for the purpose of monitoring his Internet use.