Man convicted in 1997 of sex abuse in Oak Park seeks pardon

Alleged victims create online petition to deny clemency

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A Berwyn man is seeking a July clemency hearing from Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois Prison Review Board to pardon his 1997 convictions for aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

The two victims were Oak Park and River Forest High School female students. In addition, Dutra was accused, but not convicted, of misdemeanor battery charges against four other girls for unwanted touching. The girls who accused him were between 13 and 16 years old.

"That was a mistake I made in '96 and I have paid for it 1,000 times over," said James A. Dutra Sr., who formerly lived in the 1100 block of South Ridgeland Avenue in Oak Park. Dutra, who is now 72 years old, said he wanted to apply to expunge his record so he could get a job. 

But the women who accused Dutra don't believe his conviction should be erased by the governor or anyone else.

Alleged victims Marete Steger, who lives in Forest Park, and Tracey Diederich, of Oak Park, have posted an online petition on the website asking Quinn to deny clemency to Dutra. More than 500 signatures have been gathered online, and the two are sharing the petition through social media.

"This man [allegedly] irrevocably changed the lives of six beautiful young women," the petition reads. "They cannot be released from their memories or the after effects, please help us guarantee that he can't have this erased from his record."

According to published accounts, Dutra was arrested on Mother's Day in 1996 after Steger, then a minor, and five other girls told OPRF High School counselors that Dutra had allegedly touched them inappropriately at his home. The six girls were friends of his son, Diederich said.

"This pretty much ruined a lot of our lives," Diederich alleged. "We never thought this was coming back to haunt us."

After his arrest, Dutra's bond was set at $500,000 and he spent more than 100 days in Cook County Jail until his trial and conviction in 1997. Dutra did not go to prison, but was sentenced to time served, said Terry Reilly, an assistant Cook County state's attorney who works in the post-conviction unit. Dutra was listed on the Illinois sex offender list for 10 years, until 2007.

He was arrested in Berwyn in 2005 for being within 500 feet of a park. That charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, Dutra said, because he was never told the new rules for sex offenders after laws were changed.

Dutra said he was given four years of probation, four years of sexual therapy and six months of being confined to his home when he was not at work.

"I did my time. I paid for my crime. I feel like I'm entitled to a fresh start," Dutra told the Forest Park Review on Wednesday.


Clemency request upsets victims

According to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Dutra applied for a July 23 hearing to have his record expunged.

 "The [alleged] victims in this case are understandably upset," said Reilly. "[Dutra] is basically requesting a pardon."

The Victim's Assistance Unit sent a letter to the Oak Park home of the mother of one victim of the sexual abuse convictions, announcing that Dutra was requesting a hearing for a pardon.

"We found out about it by accident, because one of the girl's mothers still happens to live in Oak Park," said Steger.

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board will make a determination in a meeting closed to the public and will present a recommendation to Quinn, who may or may not take the advice of the review board.

Dutra defended himself Wednesday, saying he only was guilty of the felony convictions, not the other accusations.

"I touched two young ladies in their breast," Dutra said. "That was a mistake and I'm ashamed of myself for doing it."

Dutra said the other girls accused him falsely in court because they were angry he wouldn't allow them to hold a party in his house with "alcohol and beer."

"[The four girls] lied like rugs during the trial," Dutra said.

But Diederich said Dutra was the one who was lying.

Dietrich said the request for a pardon "rehashes the past for all his [alleged] victims. He should not have the right to do this."

"I was his victim," Diederich claimed. "I have no problem with all 372 of my Facebook friends knowing that," she said. "He can't victimize me again. He's my victim now."


See the online petition here:

Reader Comments

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Wanda M. from Beardstown  

Posted: October 26th, 2013 11:31 AM

I for one strongly believe once on the sex offenders registry, they should never be removed and have to report in at least once a year. It is all just a waste if you let them off basically with a slap on the back of the hand. How would he of felt if this would of been his Daughter? Never mind, I guess our children are not worth fighting for!!!!!!!! Our court systems suck. Lets just say this was the Judges Daughter... HUH WHAT THEN?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Wanda M. from Beardstown  

Posted: October 26th, 2013 11:21 AM

I really can not believe all I have read about this matter. Good Lord people, (whether 3 months old or 17 1/2)these children are our future. If we can not count on courts to protect them, who do we count on?????????


Posted: June 14th, 2013 5:32 PM

Tracey - expungement, a pardon (or "clemency"), and sealing are three different things. It is confusing, and it's a shame you're in the middle of it. His crimes cannot be expunged without a pardon, i.e., he cannot file a straight expungement motion. He can, however, seek a pardon - anyone can, and terrible people often do. And their petitions are denied. And the victims are often victimized again, which is awful when it happens.

Tracey Diederich from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 4:27 PM

Joe, This is a private session, I have the letter from the Office of the State's Attorney advising us of this fact. And had he not been taken off the sex offenders registry, we wouldn't even be discussing this. According to Illinois statute, the only two crimes that can not be expunged are DUI's and sexual offenses against a minor under the age of 18. - why should he have the right to ask and waste tax payers money on this session? Doesn't make sense to me.

Joe from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 3:20 PM

Basic public info here: Not commenting on the convict or the victims' petition (good for them, that's very brave). Only that this article was not well researched. Executive clemency is a mess in Illinois because Blago did not rule on any petitions, and Quinn is cleaning up the backlog. The Prison Review Board is great; they've seen it all, take all factors into account, and make wise decisions. It is not blind, not "private," and not slanted.

Joe from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 3:18 PM

This article is full of inaccuracies. Any person convicted of a crime under Illinois state law may file a petition for clemency. It is presented to the Illinois Prison Review Board, which holds public hearings quarterly. There are no hearings in July. The State's Attorney, sentencing judge, criminal chief judge, and victims may (and often do) object. There are no "private" hearings; rather, if no public hearing is requested, then the decision is made on the submissions.


Posted: June 14th, 2013 2:22 PM

Our society must do everything possible to protect the most vuneralble which often means that those who harm society will pay a very heavy price. I do feel for the scarlett letter this man must carry for life BUT we must send a strong message that any type of touching, etc is not tolerated. Touching leads many other places. Sorry but we must protect children from predators - with no pardons. We must be resolute ...


Posted: June 14th, 2013 1:59 PM

Yes, Gov. Quinn, pardoning a serial sex offender is a great way to get re-elected. I'm sure none of your opponents would bring that up in any TV ads. I still don't get why this guy never went to prison (and isn't still there.)

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 1:16 PM

I am not Catholic, and the act of forgiveness is not restricted to Christianity. It's a universal concept. And, the act of forgiveness is not dependant on whether or not the offender is sorry--as evident by the fact of the reverse--that there are folks who are truly sorry, and the ones who are offended choose not to forgive. My comments are clarification (not lecturing) that go beyond this story. It is not my business whether or not someone chooses to forgive this man--legally or personally.


Posted: June 14th, 2013 11:56 AM

Where would we be without Catholics lecturing us about what it means to forgive men for their sexual crimes against children. None of that matters, Bridgett, because he clearly is not sorry. I understand why the WJ removed his comment from last night (at the same time as Theresas) where he dismissed his crime in a vulgar fashion, but it was telling to how repentant he actually feels.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 11:18 AM

To be clear, I have no opinion on whether or not clemency should be granted. My comments are to clarify what forgiveness is, and what it isn't.

Tracey Diederich from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 11:04 AM

Except, he's a serial offender. It was happening years before we came into the picture. He was only prosecuted with ONE of the SIX charges originally filed. And I speak for myself, there is no forgiveness, especially with the lies he's spouting off now.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 10:46 AM

A pardon is the "forgiveness of a crime." I think there is confusion about what forgiveness is--not just in the legal sense, but in our everyday lives and relationships . When one forgives, one does not say that the offense never happened. Quite the contrary. It's acknowledging that it very much did happen, and that it was wrong and hurtful. Forgiveness means one chooses to release that person from any future debt incurred by the offense.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 8:40 AM

I don't really see the issue here. The guy is just asking for a pardon and the governor has every right to evaluate it and either grant or deny. Politically it would not make sense for Quinn to grant a pardon for someone convicted of a sexual offense. But at the same time we need to look at the rules for sex offenders. We've created a situation where the offender cannot get a job and is dependent on welfare and subsidized housing for the rest of their life. To the other Joe, that's harsh.


Posted: June 14th, 2013 5:46 AM

This is a situation in which the harshest punishment must be given to deter people in our society from preying/taking advantage of children. Yes, it is somewhat harsh but the arguement it was just touching may not change the impact on the child. Also, if they expunge this does that give others the green light to appeal? Harsh yes - needed yes. We are unfortunately in a society where young and old and now targets. Hope the victims can move on and forgive as for their own sak

Chris from OP  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 5:46 AM

Bridgett- it may not be his claimed motive, but that is what he asks for. Again, no one is asking for him to go to prison. We simply state we cannot treat the crime as if it did not happen.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 3:48 AM

According to this story, "..he wanted to apply to expunge his record so he could get a job." That's his motive, to get a job. His motive is not to negate/deny what happened.

Tracey Diederich from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 1:32 AM

Here is the petition link:

Jerry Hudson from Phoenix  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 1:07 AM

Nice catch, "What?" Certain low talent or low experience journalists (most frequently seen on TV) treat the words "alleged" and "allegedly" like a condiment: sprinkle enough of it on your copy and you're good to go. More than once I've seen a talking head refer to the "alleged" gun. It doesn't take an FBI expert to testify that the object in question is a gun. What requires expert testimony is that this was the gun used in a crime. Chalk it up to inexperience, reporter and editor.

Tracey Diederich from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 12:46 AM

Hey JOE - Who's a Christian? Who wants revenge?

Tracey Diederich from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2013 12:37 AM

AND - there were girls 8-10 years older then me that came forward after his name hit the papers, with the same claims - they were his older daughters friends. They couldn't press charges because of the statute of limitations. Do you think girls that we don't know made this up? SERIAL OFFENDER.

Tracey Diederich from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 11:31 PM

The bigger issue is that he was only charged with ONE crime, and 6 teenage girls filed police reports. He's a serial pedophile. Why should they ever be given their freedom back? I was a victim, I remember this like it happened yesterday, and I don't get those nightmares erased. NO PRISON FOR A PEDOPHILE???? WTF?

Theresa from River Forest  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 11:02 PM

The way that sex offenders are treated in our justice system is a joke. Touching a 16 year old girl's boob is a sh***y thing to do, but it shouldn't cost someone the rest of their life. The sex offender registry puts a black mark on someone for life and makes it hard for them to ever work or move on with their life. What about rehabilitation? The reaction of the girls shows what kind of people they are and I wouldn't be surprised if they made it all up from the start.

B from OP  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 8:41 PM

Furthermore, the fact that he's "arguing" about the facts or trying to minimize the incident, is suspect. Here's an adult who had a bunch of high school girls at his house, and he put himself in the position to be convicted of a serious crime, Now he wants to bring it all up again and accuse 4 of 6 girls of lying. Ya know what, if you were a responsible adult, you wouldn't be trying to convince the public (through your interview) that some, but not all, of the girls were lying.

B from OP  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 8:35 PM

John, you're right, he served his time and he is a free man. I'm unclear why this should be removed from his record. That's not a normal part of the process for convicted felons. We don't build in a, "hey, and after XX years, we'll pretend it never happened and remove it from your record". That's not how our system works... contd...

Chris from OP  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 8:29 PM

Mr. Murtagh, What? is right. This is not a question of his sentence. An expungement means to treat the crime as if it never happened. That's pretty insulting to the victims. They have to live forever with what he did, and so should he.

Barbara from Wahiawa  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 8:15 PM

to John...his time has been served?? No, I am a family member of one of the victims. If this was your daughter you would be singing another tune! He was an adult who knew right from wrong but still did wrong. There is no pitty for someone who take advantage of their age and does things like that.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 6:55 PM

What? Why! After his arrest, Dutra's bond was set at $500,000 and he spent more than 100 days in Cook County Jail until his trial and conviction in 1997. Dutra did not go to prison, but was sentenced to time served, said Terry Reilly, an assistant Cook County state's attorney who works in the post-conviction unit. Dutra was listed on the Illinois sex offender list for 10 years, until 2007. He was arrested in Berwyn in 2005 for being within 500 feet of a park. That charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, Dutr


Posted: June 13th, 2013 4:13 PM

Also, in what world is 100 days awaiting trial for two criminal sexual assaults considered "severe punishment"?


Posted: June 13th, 2013 4:10 PM

It's not about his sentence, John. He got off with time served, a very light sentence. He is trying to erase the fact that he committed a felony, even though it sure sounds like he's not even sorry about it. "I just touched two breasts" is not exactly criminal sexual assault, the crime he was CONVICTED of back when it was very hard to get a conviction. We all know you are a big fan of people being forgiven of their felonies, but the victims have a right to protest.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 4:06 PM

His punishment has been severe. It's the doctor's court's and board's role to decide if he is healed enough to be free. Like it or not, it is not the victim's role to determine how long his sentence should be.


Posted: June 13th, 2013 3:50 PM

Why is the WJ calling these women "alleged" victims?!? Wasn't he convicted? Way to revictimize, WJ.

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