The septuagenarian lover of a 32-year-old Troy Township Democratic committeewoman jailed for an alleged sex date with a teenage boy took another shot at the cops he says framed her in retaliation for his muckraking.
"They're going to do everything they can to destroy her because they know how important she is to me," Joliet weekly newspaperman John Gabriel said of the felony sex case that landed his much-younger lady friend, Margarita Hernandez, in jail last week.
"This thing with Margarita is nothing more than an adventure in hate," said Gabriel, 76, who formerly worked for the Joliet Times Weekly before striking out on his own and launching the Weekly Reporter.
But Joliet Police Chief Mike Trafton dismissed Gabriel's accusation as "asinine."
"That's preposterous," Trafton said. "I know better. I would never allow my guys to do anything like that, and they would never do anything like that.
"This is about protecting children and nothing more," Trafton said.
Hernandez was arrested Thursday after FBI agents raided the 6901 Monmouth Drive home where she and Gabriel live, Trafton said. The FBI searched the house on Joliet's far west side as part of an ongoing child pornography investigation, he said.
Last week, Gabriel blamed Hernandez's arrest on "crooked policemen and crooked politicians" looking to settle a score with him.
He also told how he suspected a Romeoville cop who once fired a gun at him was behind the setup.
Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey said Monday that Gabriel has raised issues about his department in the past, but never anything about an officer shooting at him.
"That's the first I ever heard of that," Turvey said. "If someone were to make an allegation like that, there would be a very thorough investigation."
Gabriel backed off the shooting story Monday, but did claim that one time in either 2009 or 2010 he was lured to the Burger King in Romeoville and then threatened by a uniformed police officer.
He said he was on his way to a secret meeting when he was pulled over on Route 53 near Taylor Road.
Gabriel said the officer, whose name he does not know, walked up to his window and told him, "Gabriel, why don't you get smart and stay the f--- out of Romeoville."
No one showed for his appointment at the Burger King, Gabriel said, and he realized "it was just a trick to get me down there, and I reported it to the FBI."
The FBI, he said, has an extensive collection of reports on him and numerous threatening letters he received and forwarded to an agent in the Orland Park office, Gabriel said, adding, "I doubt they would share it with you."
FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde said she would be available to discuss Gabriel's claims Tuesday, the same day Gabriel says he hopes to get his girlfriend in front of a judge to ask for a reduction in her $250,000 bond.
Gabriel said he spoke to Hernandez about her next court date when she called him Monday afternoon from the Will County jail.
"She's doing real well," he said, adding, "We're both devout Catholics."
"That's going to be her strength," Gabriel said. "Her prayer."
Gabriel said he first met his much younger girlfriend when he hired her to work at a cell phone and pager business he used to own. They moved in together about 10 years ago, he said, and both became precinct committeemen for the Troy Township Democrats.
He said they can both be committeemen in the same district because Hernandez was elected and he was appointed.
Soon after moving in with Hernandez, Gabriel began to pursue his dream of writing for newspapers. He says this career choice set in motion the events that ended with his girlfriend's arrest for allegedly having sex with a teenage boy.
"There's a lot of people I have angered," Gabriel said, adding, "They're punishing an innocent girl to try to get even with me, and it is a dirty, rotten shame."