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A Texas man's two-and-a-half year old drug case in Champaign County finally came to an end on February 9, 2011 in Judge Tom Difanis' courtroom after State’s Attorney Dan Clifton suddenly dropped the case. The alternative was for Judge Difanis to rule on an 8-page Motion to Dismiss for lack of a speedy trial. Had the State not dropped the case and the judge not granted the Motion to Dismiss, then the trial would have commenced.
Timothy Kendrick was arrested on Sept. 4, 2008 when coming from Houston, Texas to pick up his brother in Champaign and go to see their mother in a Chicago hospital. The apartment where Kendrick went to pick up his brother was raided within that half hour by the Drug Enforcement unit of the Champaign police with a search warrant. Kendrick claims that of the five adults who were present on the scene, or brought in from the parking lot, one of them was let go and Kendrick’s fingerprints were the only ones taken. He says his photo id was taken from his pocket while he was handcuffed and a crime scene photo was taken with his ID propped up in a kitchen cabinet, above a drawer where drugs were found.
According to Kendrick, police made deals with others at the apartment, including the leaseholders, as well as someone arrested on a different warrant, the following day. Kendrick had no knowledge of the drugs found in the apartment and was not open to "working for the State." Kendrick spent a lengthy 21 and one half months in the Champaign County jail on a $100,000 bond. He was originally charged with one count of Manufacturing and Delivery of 100<400 grams of cocaine.
During the first nine months of his incarceration, he was not allowed to come to court, although the docket erroneously reported him as appearing with his lawyer three times. “This was a violation of my due process rights,” said Kendrick.
The Speedy Trial Act requires an automatic 120 (court) days or 24 weeks from arrest to trial, excluding continuances for the defense. On June 22, 2010, Judge Clem remanded his case to the court of Judge Blockman who dismissed it for lack of a speedy trial. The State’s Attorney asked for the case to be dismissed "without prejudice," which allowed them to bring new charges.
Kendrick remained in jail and the following day (June 23) was arraigned on a new indictment of 3 counts: controlled substance trafficking, unlawful criminal drug conspiracy and unlawful possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, but the dates were extended backwards for a year from Sept. 4, 2008 to September 4, 2007. The following day, June 24, 2010, Timothy Kendrick was still in jail when deputies came to him with orders for him to be released on his own recognizance. He was to return to Houston, Texas to report to his parole board.
Kendrick was given a court-appointed attorney, Michael Zopf, in July of 2010. Kendrick had to travel to Champaign County from Houston seven times for court appearances. His lawyer filed a motion demanding a "Bill of Particulars" from the State to explain what he supposedly did in the year before he was arrested, i.e. the new charges. Judge Difanis gave the State a time limit of 40 court days to answer the demand and still they twice asked for a continuance. The second time, December 22, 2010, Judge Difanis sanctioned the State by barring all the informants' testimony from appearing for the State. Thereupon, Zopf prepared a motion demanding dismissal on the grounds of lack of a speedy trial, linking the two cases, which both center on the day of arrest on September 4, 2008. That motion would have been heard on February 9, 2011, but the State dropped the charges before the decision could be ruled upon.
Today, Kendrick is free, but it has been a difficult path. “It has been a long hard fight,” Kendrick said, “but I knew I was innocent and never gave up.”
By Mark Enslin