A Bourbonnais woman arrested more than 13 years after her indictment on sex abuse charges left the McHenry County courthouse a free woman Tuesday after a judge ruled the long delay in her prosecution violated her constitutional rights.
Judge Sharon Prather dismissed charges against Michelle Abbeduto, 33, agreeing with defense arguments that authorities, by making little effort to find her since the 1996 indictment, effectively defaulted on the case.
A visibly relieved Abbeduto said outside the courtroom she did not do what she was accused of and would have come to court to defend herself in 1996 had she known of the charges.
"I didn't even know a warrant existed," she said. "Had I known, I would have dealt with this 14 years ago."
McHenry County Sheriff's police arrested Abbeduto at her home Dec. 30 after unearthing the warrant issued after her April 1996 indictment on charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, attempted aggravated criminal sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of a child and unlawful restraint.
The allegations stemmed from claims made by a then 14-year-old girl who lived with Abbeduto at a group home for troubled young women in Wonder Lake.
"It was some girl who decided to levy false charges because she was not right in the head," Abbeduto said Tuesday. "We were all in a bad place (psychologically). That's why we were in the home."
In seeking the dismissal, Abbeduto attorney Richard Behof noted that she remained in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for more than a year after the indictment, never resided outside Illinois and received Social Security benefits between 1998 and 2005. She even worked for the Illinois Comptroller's office, Behof said.
"If they wanted to find her, they knew where she was," he said. "She never left the state. She never hid or tried to flee."
Assistant McHenry County State's Attorney David Johnston said authorities were unable to determine for certain whether police actively looked for Abbeduto before her arrest last year.