Monday, July 6, 2009

Trial Date set for Nicholas Sheley Assault Case

Today, July 6, I attended a pre - trial conference for Nicholas T. Sheley at the Knox County courthouse in Galesburg , IL. Sheley is facing felony charges of Aggravated Battery and Criminal Damage to Property and a Misdemeanor charge of Aggravated Assault. The charges stem from an April 17 incident at the Knox County jail in which Sheley is accused of taking the metal legs off a chair and throwing them at correctional officers, injuring two. He is also accused of punching one officer in the face. Bond was set at $500,000. If convicted of the battery charges he could face up to 14 years in prison.

Sheley has been held on a 10 million dollar bond in Knox County since July 1, 2008 where he is awaiting trial on murder charges. Sheley is accused of bludgeoning 8 people to death in a 6 day, 2 state killing spree that occurred in late June 2008. In Knox County he is charged with 17 counts, 10 of which are first-degree murder, for the death of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg and faces the death penalty if convicted. The capital trial is tentatively set to be heard in Summer 2010.

Here is my “in the courtroom” report for today‘s hearing:

I get here at 8:30 for the 9:00 hearing so I have plenty of time and it’s a good thing because when I come in the door of the courthouse people are lined up to the door waiting to pass through security, that’s unusual. Hmmmm….did some people have too much fun this 4th of July weekend?

I’m not sure which courtroom today’s hearing will be held in. Judge Stephen Mathers was appointed to hear this case after Sheley‘s public defender, James Harrell, filed a motion for a substitution of judge at a earlier hearing. I have never been in Judge Mather’s court, but since felony’s are dealt with on the second floor I head up the stairs. Once again there are a lot of people around. It is unusual for a hearing to be held for Sheley when the courthouse is so busy because of security concerns. I hope the date hasn’t been changed. I have been without internet service for 5 days which is the form of communication I use with those who usually update me.

I peek in the large courtroom and see Ronald Randall’s family seated in the front row behind the prosecution. This is where the hearing will be. I make my way into the courtroom and take a seat in the second row behind the family. There are a dozen or so people seated in the gallery and as many lawyers standing around the well and at the entrance so I assume there will be some other cases heard as well. Every now and then one of the attorneys will say a name and then look around the courtroom for their client. Within minutes the courtroom is full and there are still people standing in the hallway.

Knox County Victims Rights Advocate Shirley Pringle comes in. She usually sits with the Randall family but she sets the pile of paperwork she has in her arms on the state’s table and then comes over to the family. She said there are 87 pre-trial hearings set for today. They won’t do Sheley until these 87 are done but she assures the family it shouldn’t take much over an hour. Ms. Pringle says it not unusual for there to be a couple hundred of these pretrial cases , but today was slow. Thank Goodness! These "group" pretrial hearings are held just once a month. She also adds that she sits with the state for these hearings and then takes her place with another woman at the state‘s table. An Assistant States Attorney (ASA) represents the state today but he stays on his feet. I don’t know this ASA’s name but he is a good looking young man (30ish) and has been in the court as an observer in most of Sheley’s hearings.

Judge Stephen Mathers calls court to order right on time. He remains standing and addresses the court. He says that everyone appearing today has pled not guilty and requested a jury trial during their arraignments. Mathers continues, saying he expects that at least half of the cases being heard today will now waive their right to a jury trial which can mean one of two things, either they will request a bench trial (with a lone judge disposing their case instead of a jury) or they will be entering into some sort of a plea deal with the state. He admonishes the court that those who waive their right to the jury trial must sign off that they understand once they waive that right they cannot change their mind. He says rather that repeat this admonishment to every defendant he will give it again to the first few and then any of the incarcerated who aren’t in court yet.

Judge Mathers then takes his seat at the bench. He is a very pleasant man looking to be in his late 50 early 60s. My first impression is he is a no nonsense type of guy. He called the cases for each lawyer so the attorney stood at the bench and each defendant approached as their names were called. The cases move very fast and at about 9:50 all the cases were done.

Because Judge Mathers hasn’t presided over Sheley’s cases before he wants to know who Ronald Randall’s family and I am. There is also someone from the media (?) sitting next to the family. The ADA speaks up and says, “They’re all here for the next case”. Mathers says something like…. well that ought to take 10 seconds. He may as well get used to seeing us. Randall’s family is present at every hearing and they are usually the first to come and the last to leave. They are here to represent their loved one and they do not waiver! Me…. I have missed a few hearings but I do try to attend all hearings that I know about if at all possible. With these additional charges the hearings have picked up in numbers.

Sheley is brought in right at 10 a.m. Of course he is fully shackled and wearing the bright orange jailhouse uniform and flip flop sandals. His hair is grown out a bit and he is sporting some facial hair. He is accompanied by his normal entourage of about 6 sheriff deputies. Knox County Sheriff David Clague made the trip over today too and takes a seat in the gallery.

Judge Mathers waves a piece of paper in his hand and says he has received a motion to continue from the defense. At the arraignment a tentative date of July 27 was set for the criminal trial on these charges. James Harrell tells the court that he had made plans to be gone on those dates long before the April 17 incident at the jail. The ADA told the court that the state’s position was that they were ready to proceed. Judge Mathers granted the defense motion to continue and set another pre-trial hearing for September 8 at 9 a.m. and September 21 for the jury trial. With that court was recessed. A little longer than 10 seconds but not much. LOL

Tomorrow there is a pre-trial hearing in the murder case at 1 p.m. Arguments on the defense motion for change of venue are expected tomorrow. Sphere: Related Content


  1. Thanks for keeping us updated, Katfish!

  2. Ya know, this tool just needs to be tossed in jail and then throw the key out!

    Great job Katfish, thanks!

  3. What can I say Katfish? You are doing such a fantastic job keeping everyone updated on this case and for that, I thank you. I look forward to your next entry.

  4. Thanks for the nice comments!

    I am getting another entry ready from a case management hearing I attended on July 7 related to the murder case. I will include a copy of the supplemental motion filed by the defense to support their change of venue motion (filed earlier) with information about an automated polling of the potential jury pool done in Knox County on June 2. This may end up as 2 entries....I'm working on it. :D

  5. whats taking so long? is sheley guilty? good job katfish. Farve is back. bears good to. i got a boat.

  6. can anyone attend these court hearings? i would like to sit in on one. if so when is the next date? great job by the way.

  7. Anon Aug 21,
    Thank you for the kind I feel bad
    because I haven't got the last entry up as I said I would...for various reasons. I will get that done. :) You have inspired me.

    Yes, these hearings are public hearings, anyone can attend. Because Sheley is so big of a security risk they do sometimes ask who you are.

    There is 2 trials being scheduled now. The actual murder trial won't be until Summer 2010.
    The next hearing on the murder charges is scheduled for September 29 at 9:30 am to discuss a defense motion to dismiss.(fat chance) November 6 also at 9:30 am will be a hearing to decide change of venue on the murder charges.

    The last hearing had a lot to do with that...I will provide more information in the post...THAT I AM BEHIND ON! Sorry. I have 25 pages of notes from that hearing. I'm in the middle of shampooing carpets so it will be a few days before I get the entry up.

    The trial relevant to the incidents at the jail
    (battery and assault) is scheduled for September as I mentioned in this post.

    Please feel free to e-mail me through my profile page. Click on the right side of this page where it says view my complete profile and on my profile page click on e-mail. I can give you more info there.