Lawyer suspended for lying about residence in Shelby County

Dennis Roy Atteberry

A Taylorville lawyer who had petitioned to run for judge in Shelby County but later withdrew has been suspended from practicing law for 60 days because he lied on his candidacy petition about living in Shelby County, authorities announced Tuesday.

The suspension of Dennis Roy Atteberry's law license is effective June 11, according to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The commission investigates allegations of misconduct by lawyers and the Illinois Supreme Court rules on discipline in those cases.

"Over the last 18 years, I have built a reputation of honesty and integrity. In 2016, I made a mistake when I ran for Shelby County Circuit Judge," Atteberry said in a written statement on Tuesday afternoon. "I take full responsibility. I have an associate that will cover my cases during my absence."

In January of 2018, Atteberry withdrew from the Shelby County judicial race to replace the late Allen Bennett amid an Illinois State Board of Elections review of his petition. The review was in response to an objection filed by a Shelbyville resident who called Atteberry's petition invalid because the forms were improperly filled out by both Atteberry and his signatories.

In a Jan. 18, 2018, letter to the board of elections, Atteberry said he must withdraw from the race because he was unable to extend the lease on the residence he rented in Shelby County so that he could find an alternative residence.

"Therefore, I believe that as of the termination of my lease, I am no longer eligible to run pursuant to the residency requirement," Atteberry told the board.

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission complaint, affirmed by the Supreme Court ruling, says Atteberry lied and took part in "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

The commission said Atteberry "filed a Statement of Candidacy for resident judge in which he knowingly claimed a false residency, and in which he knowingly falsely represented that he was legally qualified for the office, and that he knowingly submitted false documents to the Shelby County Clerk and the Illinois Secretary of State in which he misrepresented his address."

The commission's complaint said that Atteberry's permanent residence was in Taylorville, and that he intended to keep the Taylorville home as his residence and permanent abode unless he won the Republican nomination for Resident Circuit Judge for Shelby County, at which time he would acquire a family home in Shelby County.

In the meantime, the complaint said, Atteberry asked acquaintances if he could lease their apartment on S. Vine Street in Shelbyville for $50 per month and have their permission to state their address as his address on documents and for campaign purposes. They agreed with the understanding that Atteberry would not move in, reside, or have a physical presence at their address, according to the complaint.

"On December 6, 2017, Respondent submitted an application to the Shelby County Clerk to change his voting address to 601 S. Vine Street, Shelbyville," the complaint said. "Respondent placed his signature on the application beneath a statement declaring that he 'lived' in the election precinct for that address 'at least 30 days from the date of the next election' and that the information he provided was 'true to the best of my knowledge under penalty of perjury.'"

Amanda Ade-Harlow eventually won the Republican nomination and defeated Democrat Gina Vonderheide in the general election on Nov. 6, 2018. Ade-Harlow is from Pana, in Christian County, but had lived in Shelby County for a little over eight years before the election.

Jeff Long can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 129 or by email at jeff.long@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

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