Imposter judge wins real election; what now?

An ABC7 I-Team Report

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff via WLS logo
Thursday, November 10, 2016
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Rhonda Crawford

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Rhonda Crawford was a judge imposter, and because of it she lost her clerk's job, lost her law license and eventually may lose her freedom. But Crawford is still a winner after yesterday's election. She came in first place with almost 85,000 votes in the race for judge in the 1st judicial subcircuit that takes in Chicago's South Side and southern suburbs.

Crawford's election victory comes despite her facing criminal charges of impersonating a judge in south suburban Markham in a widely-publicized case last August.

The 45 year old nurse-turned attorney was the only name listed on the ballot although there was an 11th hour write-in challenge from Maryam Ahmad, a sitting judge in Maywood.

Crawford was fired from her job as a clerk in the suburban county courthouse for donning a black robe and presiding over traffic cases that should've been heard by the actual judge. The Cook County State's Attorney has obtained criminal indictments against her charging felony official misconduct and for false impersonation, a misdemeanor. She has entered pleas of not guilty to both charges.

In September Crawford generally explained what happened in the courtroom of Judge Valerie Turner.

"I wanted to see what they did and learn about the process of being a judge. I was excited about learning and excited about the chance to win the general election especially because I was running unopposed," Crawford said.

A few hours later in a deposition obtained by the I-Team, Crawford told state regulators a few more details.

"I was shadowing with Judge Turner," Crawford told the attorney registration and disciplinary commission. "She took off her robe and handed it to me and said, 'Put this on.'

I put it on. I put on the robe...she was trying to teach me."

What Crawford learned was that such courtroom chicanery is wrong.

On Halloween the Illinois Supreme Court temporarily suspended her law license. That alone precludes her from taking the $190,000 dollars a year office that she won yesterday by a vote of the people.

Election officials say next week in the official canvas Crawford will be declared the winner, although the seat will remain vacant because she's legally barred from taking office. Crawford didn't reply to messages left by the I-Team but on her Facebook page she wrote thank you messages to voters, all of this reinforcing a long-held belief that voters simply don't pay much attention to judge elections.