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Judge rejects Rossi plea to halt civil trial due to reported federal probe

Aaron Rossi walking out of courthouse
WCBU file photo
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Aaron Rossi is awaiting a trial on federal tax fraud charges.

A lawsuit against former Reditus Laboratories executive Aaron Rossi will move forward, despite a reported federal investigation into the firm’s business practices, a Tazewell County judge ruled on Tuesday.

Rossi did not attend the hearing in the lawsuit filed by his former business partners accusing him of using funds from the COVID-19 testing firm to pay for personal expenses. Last week, Rossi’s legal team filed a motion asking the court to halt proceedings in the civil case because of “ongoing, confidential United States Department of Justice criminal and civil investigations into Reditus’ billing and contracting practices, and presumably those acting on its behalf, including Aaron Rossi.”

The fact that the Justice Department may be investigating Rossi had not been previously disclosed publicly.

The emergency motion was filed under seal at the request of Rossi’s lawyers. An accompanying motion seeking permission to file the related documents was briefly available to the public and media and later sealed.

Judge Stephen Couri rejected arguments by Rossi’s lawyer Dan Fetterman that his client's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination would be compromised if contents of the motion were publicly aired

Before making his argument, Fetterman asked that media be ordered to stop recording the proceedings, saying no request was on file for cameras during Tuesday’s hearing.

Couri agreed and two TV outlets were told to stop filming. Separate media petitions had not been previously required.

The judge refused Fetterman’s request to close the courtroom.

Peter Lubin, a lawyer for Dr. Jim Davie, one of Rossi’s former partners, objected to closing the hearing, saying “That’s not how it’s done in this country.”

The attorney said he welcomed a public hearing of information in the motion that alleges Lubin spoke to the FBI about a witness who came to him with claims that Rossi gave her opiates in exchange for her help with his alleged embezzlement scheme.

Both sides made lengthy arguments on whether Rossi lawyer Michael Evans will be deposed a second time about his work for Rossi.

A hearing is set for Dec. 13 where Rossi, Evans and the court-appointed receiver for Reditus are expected to testify. Little will be learned from Rossi according to his lawyer.

“We have no choice but to have Mr. Rossi assert his Fifth Amendment right,” said Fetterman.

Couri signed an order giving both sides two months to complete work on a potential settlement agreement.

Pekin-based Reditus closed its business in November after a barrage of legal problems. In addition to the lawsuit from his business partners, Rossi also faces federal criminal charges of tax and mail fraud. He has pleaded not guilty.

A March 23 trial is scheduled in federal court.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.