Tony DeBois, a notorious former deputy police chief of Markham, admits he had sex with a woman in his city office and lied about it to the FBI, but that's where his agreement with federal authorities ends.
Prosecutors allege DeBois forced himself on a prisoner. DeBois contends he had consensual sex with another woman and that he lied about it to federal agents only to keep it from his then-fiancee.
Now both the woman in custody and the woman DeBois says he had sex with are expected to take the witness stand to tell competing stories in what promises to be a scandalous sentencing hearing in January.
DeBois, 41, was originally charged in March with violating a detainee's civil rights through aggravated sexual abuse. But in an unusual deal unveiled Thursday, he pleaded guilty to a single count of making false statements to the FBI, a charge that was filed earlier this week. The original charges will be dropped, Assistant U.S. Attorney April Perry said.
DeBois faces up to five years in prison but could also receive probation.
In his plea agreement, DeBois admitted lying in an interview last October with FBI agents when he said the only woman he had had sex with in his office was his fiancee, whom he later married.
But prosecutors alleged DeBois coerced a woman who was in police custody into having sex with him.
After court, Terry Ekl, one of DeBois' lawyers, called the accuser a "stone-cold liar and perjurer" who misled a grand jury investigating allegations of corruption in the south suburban department.
Ekl said it was the first time in his lengthy career that he had seen prosecutors agree to a plea deal when there was still a dispute about the facts of the case.
"They did this because they couldn't prove the (civil rights) allegation in court," he said.
A longtime controversial cop who got his start in corruption-plagued Harvey, DeBois parlayed his political connections with Markham Mayor David Webb Jr. into a rapid rise there from patrol to deputy chief even as he became a magnet for lawsuits.
For years, DeBois was a well-known figure on Markham's streets, riding up and down Kedzie Avenue in a city-owned black Dodge Charger. One resident, Clarence Allen, who settled an excessive-force suit against DeBois, told the Tribune the burly officer acted as if he were Denzel Washington from the movie "Training Day."
According to an FBI affidavit, DeBois was investigated in 2012 over alleged threats he made to kidnap his ex-wife. "All it takes is me making one phone call and poof you'll be gone and who will your cute little boys have to call mommy," the FBI quoted him as writing her in one email. DeBois has not been charged with any wrongdoing in that matter.
Last year, a Markham police officer arrested on allegations he stole money during the search of a warehouse told authorities that in 2010 he had seen DeBois pocket $4,500 in counterfeit cash seized from a target of an investigation before coercing the man's female associate, who was also in custody, into having sex in his office, court records show.
DeBois declined comment as he left the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse after his guilty plea Thursday, but Ekl said the lawsuits against DeBois are a natural result of his aggressive policing style and not evidence of corruption. He said DeBois may be guilty of bad judgment but that his sexual dalliances do not amount to "a heinous federal crime."
"What a terrible, terrible thing for a person to do, to lie about sex," Ekl said sarcastically.