Submitted by anonymous on October 13, 2006 - 4:40pm
Thompson Hearing Yields Documents
October 13, 2006
by Chris Evans
URBANA- Patrick Thompson, local activist and founder of V.E.Y.A., returned to court yesterday to settle a brief dispute over some documents lawyers for Thompson had subpoenaed with regard to Thompson's 4-month incarceration in 2004 at the Champaign County Jail.
Bob Kirchner, Thompson's attorney, had requested all documents relating to Thompson during Thompson's stay at the county jail from August 2004 to December 2004. Thompson was in custody on a $250,000 bond for two Class X felonies, and three Class 1 felonies, as charged by then-State's Attorney, John Piland.
Thompson has been free on his own recognizance since early December 2004, after newly-elected State's Attorney, Julia Rietz; ignored her own claims of a conflict of interest, and reduced Thompson's bond to a mere $5000 despite the serious allegations against Thompson.
Special Prosecutor Michael Vujovich, objected to the release of Thompson's own county jail records on grounds that the defense, "...didn't need them."; this according to Ruth Wyman, a lawyer representing the Kirchner office. Despite that objection, Wyman said today that Vujovich had later withdrawn his objection, and the documents would be forthcoming.
Indeed, Sherriff Dan Walsh personally walked the paperwork over to the courtroom while a dozen supporters waited with Thompson for the hearing to begin. Since the documents were released, no hearing was necessary and prosecutor Vujovich was not in attendance.
Wyman described the issue over Thompson's jail records as mostly procedural. "Most of the time, the sherriff's department insists that in criminal matters, all documents need to be subpoenaed to insure everyone's right to privacy. "
Thompson then thanked his supporters for their diligent witnessing to his case. "Support is always good. I appreciate everyone coming out here today," Thompson said, as he left the courthouse to continue his semester at Parkland College in the criminal justice program.
Attorney Wyman also thanked the group gathered to watch the hearing, and reminded them they are still needed, saying the Thompson case is an important case. Wyman explained that she had heard of innocent people going to jail, but the Thompson case is the first time Wyman has "personally met someone who is innocent but was still convicted."
Patrick Thompson was convicted of one count of home invasion and one count of criminal sexual abuse in a second jury trial on July 7 of this year while being represented by private counsel, Harvey Welch. Thompson was originally tried in July of 2005, where Thompson represented himself in front of an all-white jury (Thompson is black.). That trial was declared a mistrial as jurors were split 6-6 and could not reach a verdict.
Shortly after Thompson's conviction this year, citizens, including C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice, members of A.W.A.R.E. and Community Courtwatch, and members of local African-American churches all rallied behind Thompson to hire attorney Bob Kirchner to represent Thompson. Supporters have claimed that there exists no evidence to convict Thompson; and that the prosecution of Thompson represents a retaliation for videotaping local police officers during the making of the controversial 2004 documentary, Citizens Watch.
Critics of the Thompson prosecution also suggest that the $15 million dollar civil lawsuit filed by Thompson and E. Martel Miller in federal court, (Miller also worked on the film) against 12 local law enforcement officials may be the driving motivation to frame Mr. Thompson and send him away to prison for something he did not do.
In the federal lawsuit, Thompson and Miller are claiming that their constitutional rights were violated when in August of 2004, law enforcement officials attempted to criminally prosecute Thompson and Miller with Class 1 felony eavesdropping charges. Prosecutors had claimed the act of videotaping police officers without the individual officers' persmission, was an act of criminal eavesdropping. Those charges against Miller and Thompson were later dropped by both John Piland and his successor, Julia Rietz.
Rietz has issued a public statement regarding her decision to drop the eavesdropping charges against Thompson that said in part, "....Perhaps, technically, I should not have done so because Patrick Thompson and I had an attorney/client relationship with regard to other unrelated matters. However, given that similar charges had been dismissed against Martell Miller [by Piland], [and] public sentiment was clearly in favor of dismissal; and morally, I believed it was appropriate, I dismissed the eavesdropping charges."
Thompson and Miller's civil lawsuit also contends that the eavesdropping charges represent a malicious prosecution. Another claim in the lawsuit is that officials who attempted to bar the public-access television channel, UPTV, from airing the film Citizens Watch violated Thompson and Miller's first amendment rights. There exists in the lawsuit further claims of racial profiling during some traffic stops of Mr. Thompson. The 15 million dollar civil lawsuit remains pending against those 12 law enforcement officials. Thompson and Miller are representing themselves, pro se, in that case.
In the criminal case against Thompson, Attorney Bob Kirchner has filed a post-trial motion asking the court to grant Thompson a new trial. That hearing is scheduled for November 27, 2006, 1:30pm in Courtroom A.