On April 24, 2007, Judge Harry Clem handed down a decision to grant a new trial to black activist Patrick Thompson. This could result in a third trial. Thompson’s supporters demand that Special Prosecutor Michael Vujovich drop all charges and not spend one more cent of taxpayer money on this flimsy case.
In the downstate Illinois environment of sundown towns and law-and-order Republicans, the police are as brutal in Urbana-Champaign as in Chicago. The black community is kept segregated from the University of Illinois campus and is heavily policed. Starting a cop watch program in 2004, Thompson captured local police on videotape as they arrived in “arrest mode” when dealing with the black community. For his media activism, the local authorities have come down hard on Thompson.
In July 2006, Thomspon was found guilty of home invasion and sexual abuse. A 2005 trial in which Thompson defended himself pro se had ended in a mistrial. The guilty verdict in the second trial carried a sentence of 6-30 years. Thompson’s supporters say the state never presented any evidence or witnesses, and that this case was retribution for his political activism.
Patrick Thompson, along with Martel Miller, is co-founder of VEYA (Visionaries Educating Youth and Adults). The two currently have a $15 million law suit against the police departments of Champaign and Urbana, as well as the Sheriff’s Department and the administration of the previous State’s Attorney, for illegally pursuing charges of felony eavesdropping. In 2004, Thompson and Miller were videotaping police and out of their footage produced the documentary Citizen’s Watch. The day after the first eavesdropping charges were filed, on August 24, 2004, Thompson was accused of sexual abuse and home invasion by a white woman and arrested by Urbana police.
After Thompson was found guilty in July 2006, attorneys Bob Kirchner and Ruth Wyman took up his case. They filed a 90 page motion for a new trial, backed up by 800 examples of case law. Additional witnesses also testified in two days of court hearings. The basis of the request for a new trial was ineffective counsel, contradictory statements made by the accuser, and additional evidence that has not been heard by a jury.
Kirchner and Wyman are to be commended for their heroic efforts to save Thompson from the clutches of the Champaign County criminal justice system.
The Thompson family is very happy with the decision. But they should not have to live one more day with the threat of a third trial.
Special Prosecutor Vujovich should DROP ALL CHARGES!
For coverage of the post-trial hearings see:
Justice has been served.