A Sugar Grove man was only defending himself from a thief on crack cocaine when he struck him with a samurai sword, a Kane County jury ruled.
The jury deliberated for two hours Tuesday before reaching a verdict of not guilty on the charge of armed violence, which stemmed from a Nov. 8, 2004, fight in Ray Wilson’s home.
Wilson, 47, nodded his head in agreement as the verdict was read and quickly turned to smile and wink at his family.
Wilson’s future mother-in-law Dorothy Kotton pumped her fist in glee and said the family was grateful for the outcome. If convicted, Wilson would have faced a minimum of 15 years in prison.
The two-day trial relied almost solely on the testimony of Wilson, a convicted bank robber, and a 33-year-old homeless man who lived with Wilson for about 10 days prior to the fight.
Both men claimed self-defense in the fight, which left the Chicago man with a six-inch long sword scar on his face, a cut arm, a broken rib, busted lip, chipped tooth and numerous bruises.
The Chicago man claimed that Wilson smoked crack with him nearly every day and beat him because of misplaced drugs and money that Wilson assumed he stole. Wilson’s attorney, Kathleen Colton of Batavia, said the man fabricated that story to explain his injuries to police who hospital staff called.
Jurors said there was little dissent during their deliberations that Wilson’s version of how the fight played out was more plausible and that he appeared more truthful on the witness stand.
Colton said the home repair business owner turned his life around after getting out of prison in 2000. His only mistake was trying to help the Chicago man do the same by giving him a place to stay and odd jobs to do.
Wilson, who testified for the first time Tuesday, said he awoke to find the Chicago man rifling through his dresser, knowing he was groggy from sleeping pills for his insomnia. It was the same day he had told the Chicago man he must soon find another place to live, Wilson told jurors.
When the 6-foot-3-inch Wilson bent down to search the pockets of the 5-foot-6-inch man, he said the smaller man latched onto his neck, near the jugular vein.
“I knew if I didn’t get him loose, I would probably die,” Wilson said. “He was just hanging on like a pit bull.”
Wilson said he punched the man in the head and chest repeatedly, but the man, who Wilson said was high on crack, would not let go.
Wilson said he then grabbed between the man’s legs to lift him up and he carried him over to the edge of the bed and grabbed a replica sword he kept there. He said he beat the handle of the sword against the man’s head and then threatened to stab him. Finally, the man let go, Wilson said.
But then, the Chicago man started edging backward toward the dresser and reached for a steak knife left on a dinner plate, Wilson told jurors.
In reflex, Wilson said, he slapped the man in the side of the head with the dull edge of the sword he was still holding.
“I was reacting to a situation I was thrust into,” He said. “It wasn’t planned.”
Wilson showed jurors a scar on his neck from the bite mark, which he said is still numb. The skin was pierced but not torn during the attack, prosecutors said.
Wilson told jurors that the man crawled into the closet bleeding and begged for the police not to be called, so instead he called the man’s mother to get him.