Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nicholas Sheley Changes His Mind Again- Decides To Keep Attorney On Assault Charges-UPDATE 2


On June 2 an arraignment was held for the charges from the April 17 Jail Incident. Katfishponders wasn't able to attend the arraignment, but it was reported in the local news that Nicholas Sheley pleaded not guilty to all 5 counts. Sheley also demanded a jury trial during his arraignment.

As reported in the 5/25 update to this entry, Sheley’s public defender Jim Harrell filed a motion May 22 for a substitution of judge, so the case will move to the felony division for a pre-trial conference July 6 at 9 a.m. in front of Judge Stephen Mathers.


Nicholas Sheley, 29, appeared in Knox County Circuit Court May 21 for a scheduled arraignment on the Battery and Assault charges stemming from the incident at the Knox County Jail on April 17. (link below)However, Judge Steven Bordner said Sheley’s attorney, Jim Harrell, filed a motion for a substitution of judge. A defendant may request a change of judge if he or she feels the presiding judge may be prejudiced. The request also may be made without citing a reason. Harrell’s motion did not state a reason. The decision on appointing a new judge will fall on co-administrative judges Paul Mangieri and Stephen Mathers. The court did not indicate when that decision will be made. Once a new judge is appointed, an arraignment will be scheduled. I'll let you know when I hear anything.

Original post:
At a hearing on Friday, May 15, Nicholas Sheley told the Associate Judge Dwayne Morrison that he has decided to keep Public Defender James Harrell as his attorney in the jail assault case. Katfishponders reported on the incident at the Knox County Jail on April 17 here (where Sheley allegedly threw the metal legs of a chair at three Knox County correctional officers and punched a fourth in the face)and the subsequent indictment handed down by a grand jury on May 12 here.
For those of you who are interested in the details of the hearings I'll give an "in the courtroom" report of the May 15 hearing, since it was a short hearing I'll give a little more detail about some of the people in the courtroom than I usually do. Here it is:

It's pouring down rain (4-5 inches) as I pull up to the Knox County courthouse for a hearing on Sheley's Motion to represent himself on Felony charges of Aggravated Battery and Criminal Damage to Property, and a Misdemeanor charge of Aggravated Assault. The hearing is scheduled for 3:00 pm.

As I come in the front door at about 2:50 and shake out my umbrella, I notice Nicholas Sheley is being brought in the back door of the courthouse, escorted by a group of Sheriff deputies. The hearing is in the smaller courtroom downstairs so I don't worry so much about making it into the courtroom.(The door to the courtroom is just a few steps away from the security pass-through.)

As I enter the courtroom I see murder victim Ronald Randall's family seated in the middle row on the right hand side of the room with Shirley Pringle, Knox County victims rights advocate. I take a seat behind them just as Sheley is brought into the courtroom through a door at the front of the courtroom. There is nothing remarkable about his appearance today other than he doesn't have on his readers today. This is a little unusual that Sheley is brought in before any of the attorneys are here but I don't think there is a room to hold him in on the first floor. I count six Sheriff deputies around him, they keep a tight reign on him, and rightly so. There is also two bailiffs in the room.

Jeremy Karlin (court appointed co-counsel in Sheley's murder case) comes in the courtroom and takes a seat in front of Mr. Randall's family. He is just a spectator today. Ninth Circuit Judge Paul Mangieri comes in and takes a seat behind me. This is the first time I've seen him in a Sheley hearing. I turn and smile hello, Galesburg is a fairly small town and it's not unusual for people to be familiar even if you don't know them personally. Paul Mangeri was States Attorney in Knox County for 10 years before taking the bench. I "know" him from school athletic events though...he and his wife have 12 kids between them. They have racked up a lot of "bleacher time". LOL

Two friends of Ronald Randall come in and sit next to me. They try to attend as many hearings as possible in support of their friend "Ronnie". Sometimes they e-mail me and ask for times or dates. If you aren't family or accredited press you have to rely on the kindness of others to get this information, the courthouse won't give it out over the phone. I'm thankful to those who keep me in the loop, so I'm glad to pay that forward.

Here comes States Attorney John Pepmeyer. In this smaller courtroom there is one long wooden table in the well for both parties to sit at. Pepmeyer takes a seat at the table leaving a place between him and Sheley for Sheley's attorney James Harrell. Neither Pepmeyer or Sheley look at each other. Sheley just stares into space and Pepmeyer goes over some papers he brought in.

John Pepmeyer pictured
John Pepmeyer is a local guy. He and his younger brother, Tom, have had a private legal practice here in Galesburg for many years. Early on in Sheley's murder case, I heard John say that he has practiced criminal law for 35 years, having started in the Knox County States Attorney's office out of college as an assistant. If I recall correctly, he said in court that his experience qualifies him to handle the death penalty case without being a member of the Illinois Capital Litigation Bar. He is a pleasant and soft spoken fellow in his late 50's.

Public Defender James Harrell comes into the courtroom, he acknowledges Jeremy Karlin and they step in the hall for a minute then come right back in and Harrell takes his seat between Sheley and John Pepmeyer.
James Harrell pictured
James Harrell has been Public Defender in Knox County for almost 18 years. I'm not sure if Jim is originally from the Galesburg area, but a couple of interesting tidbits I have learned about him is that he is an amateur historian whose specialty is the political history of Germany and Eastern Europe. I noticed one day when he got up from his seat that he has a bad back, I commented to Shirley Pringle, who was sitting next to me, he needs to bring a comfortable chair into the courtroom (hardwood slat back chairs are provided). He must live on a farm because she told me he hurt his back when he got kicked by one of the reindeer he raises. (Yep, a reindeer, LOL) Harrell also seems to be a pleasant, soft spoken man and is in his late 40's.

Back to the hearing....Right at 3:00 Associate Judge Dwayne Morrison enters and calls court to order. He acknowledges both attorneys and Nicholas Sheley. He says that this hearing is a continuance of the hearing from May 4. At that hearing he told the parties he would hear arguments from both sides on Sheley's motion to represent himself on the charges in connection to the incident at the jail on April 17, James Harrell's motion to contest that motion and would make a ruling from the bench at this hearing. He continued that in the interim a Grand Jury has handed down a 5 count Bill of Indictment related to the incident.

Addressing Sheley specifically, Judge Morrison goes on to say, "Mr. Sheley, I'm handing you a Bill of Indictment that carries exactly the same charges and penalties as you were read at the last hearing, but we will not have a preliminary hearing." ( In IL, a grand jury indictment confirms the states probable cause to file charges and eliminates the accused's right to request a preliminary hearing.) Morrison asks Pepmeyer if these charges are exactly the same charges. Pepmeyer says, "yes sir".

The judge then asks Sheley if he would like him to read the charges and possible penalties to him again. Sheley replies, "not necessary". Morrison informs Sheley the motion filed by James Harrell questions whether he has the mental capacity to represent himself and asks for Dr. Hanlon to re-examine him.

John Pepmeyer says he would like to take judicial notice of the state's response to this same issue in the other (murder) case and acknowledges the defendant has the constitutional right to represent himself. Pepmeyer tells the court right before coming to this hearing he received an e-mail about a seventh-circuit ruling that deals with the issues raised in Indiana vs. Edwards. The case US vs. Berry recognizes that a judge is basically in a catch 22, the defendant will appeal regardless of the ruling and basically defers the decision to the trial judge. At that, Morrison kind of chuckled and said something like that's for sure. (I didn't write it down)

Morrison asks Pepmeyer, " What is the state's position?" Pepmeyer says the court should note that Dr. Hanlon was the defense expert. Judge Stewart chose Dr. Killian. He continues that both Drs. reports are dated and asks the court to allow both experts to be updated to this (April 17), a previous incident in January and another involving a search warrant.

Judge Morrison tells Sheley that maybe he should have asked this earlier, but does he wish to continue with his motion to represent himself or will he accept the assistance of counsel? Sheley says, "Accepts the assistance of counsel." Morrison says, "Motion to represent self is now moot."The judge then asks Harrell his position. Harrell tells the court the motion will be withdrawn for the present time. Morrison then tells Sheley he can't wait long to change his mind to represent himself.

Morrison asks Harrell if he wants an arraignment to make a plea and to transfer the case to Division 1. Harrell replies he needs time before an arraignment and transfer to felony court. Pepmeyer says the state is ready and willing to proceed and asks the delay be attributed to the defense.

The judge sends a bailiff out to get the clerk so they can schedule the arraignment. The clerk comes in and gets on a computer. She says how about May 21 at 2:30? Judge Morrison says he will transfer the case to Division 1 for arraignment to make pleas on May 21 at 2:30. He informs Sheley that after the Bill of Indictment was handed down another judge raised his bail on these charges from $250,000 to $500,000 and says his order will show the delay is attributed to the defense. He then asks if there is anything else on behalf of the state or defense and they both say no. The hearing is over.

This is all similar to what happened after Sheley was charged in a 17 count indictment for the alleged bludgeoning death of Ronald Randall,65, in a two-state killing spree that left eight dead. Sheley wanted to fire Jeremy Karlin and James Harrell as his counsel and represent himself but later changed his mind. He is being held on a $10 million dollar bond. That trial is tentatively set for Summer 2010, if convicted for killing Randall, Sheley will face the death penalty. Sphere: Related Content


  1. hey!!! will have to come back to read this whole post...have to cook supper..lol
    the header photo was taken in July of 08
    the grass grows in between my pavers, and so far I have had some in the ground in a different area of the garden now for 5 years and counting!
    I guess that will remain to be seen!