ST. CHARLES — In an unexpected turn of events in an already unusual trial, Judge Barry E. Puklin Wednesday dismissed all eight counts against a St. Charles man charged with invading the home of a drug-dealing couple in Valley View.
After a Kane County jury heard almost eight hours of testimony Tuesday, it took Puklin only 40 minutes to dismiss the counts of home invasion, aggravated battery, reckless
discharge of a firearm and unlawful use of a weapon against 24-year-old Timothy 0. Schroeder.
The dismissal, based on a motion filed by Schroeder’s attorney, Kathleen Colton, exempted the jury from deciding his fate. Schroeder, of 35W740 Rose Ave., was facing between 16 and 56 years in prison and up to $70,000 in fines on seven of the eight charges.
Colton filed the motion Wednesday for Puklin to decide the case because the testimony of victims Donna and Stephan Dennis, admitted drug dealers, had created a shadow of doubt. Both had to be offered immunity in order to testify
“I thought I had the best chance I’ve ever had in my legal career,” said Colton. “What’s unusual in this case is the discrepancy of what happened in the testimony of (Donna and Stephan Dennis). It makes me feel like I did a good job.”
In his ruling, Puklin said the Dennises’ testimony hurt the state’s case more than it helped.
“This case does not stand for the proposition of should the state protect drug dealers (who are) ripped off,” Puklin said. “Unfortunately, the state found itself with the only witnesses whose credibility (was in question).
“I can’t believe a thing (admitted drug dealer Donna Dennis) said.
The words ‘pond scum’ come to mind, I’m not convinced beyond a
Judge Barry E. Puklin
“I can’t believe a thing (Donna Dennis) said. The words ‘pond scum’ come to mind. I’m not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Meg Gorecki ran into trouble when the two victims varied their testimony Tuesday.
Both admitted that Donna, 33, was selling crack cocaine to another St. Charles man at the time of the March 18 break-in.
However, Stephan, 27, told Colton that many of the details attributed to him in the police report were incorrect. In addition, he admitted to having a 1988 felony conviction in
Georgia, even though he struck a deal with Kane County prosecutors earlier this year to reduce a recent felony charge to a misdemeanor.
Other inconsistencies included the testimony of friends, one of whom couldn’t remember what happened on the morning of the incident.
“It was like watching my soap operas,” said 23-year-old Corda Lester, Schroeder’s friend. “None of their stories matched.”
As a result, Schroeder was freed from Kane County Jail for the first time in six months.
“Alter talking to my lawyer last night I felt pretty confident,” said 22-year-old Victoria Powell, Schroeder’s girlfriend and mother of his 4-year-old son, Derrick. “We’ve been talking about getting married but he’s been gone for six months and he has some making up to do.”
The motion for a directed verdict is a loophole that allowed Colton, after the state rested its case, to request Puklin decide Schroeder’s fate, in effect, making it a bench trial.
“It’s not unusual,” Colton said. “But as a lawyer you always try to make (the motion) because the judge might direct it out at that point. That’s why I prefer jury trials.”
Puklin expressed his concern in taking a case away from a jury. He cited a case in which a similar motion was filed, but he let the jury decide. “(I thought) since the defendant asked for a jury trial, I’m going to let the jury decide it,” Puklin said. “The jury found that person guilty (and) that person wasn’t guilty. It proved the point that a judge has to have the courage of his convictions.”
While Schroeder was free Wednesday, he will return to court Sept. 21 to face a felony battery charge alleging on Feb. 26 he beat up Powell and pushed her down a flight of stairs.