Juvenile stabbing case over

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While information was hard to come by, the case involving a young male in connection with a 2019 stabbing incident in Waterloo finally concluded last week.

The defendant in this case entered a negotiated plea last Wednesday to one count of felony aggravated battery through the juvenile court system, per a source familiar with the matter. His sentencing includes an undisclosed term of probation. 

The stabbing occurred at the Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School playground on Aug. 24, 2019, shortly before the Waterloo Homecoming parade. 

Police said one 14-year-old boy stabbed another 14-year-old boy on the playground, resulting in the victim being hospitalized in critical condition. The victim was stabbed in the torso and had his aorta partially severed in addition to receiving hand and facial cuts, medical personnel said. He has since recovered, but still has lingering limitations.

The boy who did the stabbing was subsequently charged in Monroe County Circuit Court as a juvenile with two counts of armed violence and one count of aggravated battery. Waterloo police investigated the case.

Both young men involved in this incident are now 17 years of age.

An initial attempt to prosecute the defendant as an adult and/or as part of an “extended jurisdiction juvenile” designation was denied by Judge Julia Gomric, after which Monroe County appealed to the Fifth District Appellate Court in Mt. Vernon. That court sided with Monroe County, and the attempt to prosecute as an adult or EJJ case went back to Judge Gomric. 

However, she ruled a second time this past November that the case was to remain in juvenile court.

Judge Gomric no longer presided over this case due to Resident Circuit Judge Chris Hitzemann assuming his seat on the bench in Monroe County at the start of 2022. Since Hitzemann was the initial prosecutor in this case before becoming judge, Associate Circuit Judge Jeff Watson presided over the matter as Judge Gomric no longer hears cases in this county.

Per court scheduling obtained by the Republic-Times, a bench trial was set for last Tuesday morning, but sources said it was rescheduled for Wednesday. Since this is a juvenile matter, the circuit clerk’s office and state’s attorney’s office declined to provide any information. 

The plea agreement was finalized prior to this trial ever taking place, a source said.

The attorney representing the defendant in this case was TJ Matthes from the St. Louis law firm of Rosenblum, Schwartz & Fry. He is most known locally as the defense attorney for Kyle Roider, who was acquitted by a jury of murder during a trial that took place last summer at the Monroe County Courthouse. Matthes also declined to provide information on this case. 

The Republic-Times attempted to attend the bench trial – citing provisions in the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 – but requests made Tuesday to prosecutor Lucas Liefer to take part were deferred to Judge Watson, who did not return multiple attempts to reach him Wednesday.

Illinois Press Association President Don Craven, who is a media law attorney, said that while the press has a right to attend trials and other proceedings in juvenile court, there are currently no provisions in state law that force court officials to provide such basic details as court dates and times or any other information.

Craven said that as a result, he is drafting an amendment to be passed by lawmakers that would soon close that loophole.

Specifically, Craven said a proposed 13th section of the law will state that “the news media has the right pursuant to 705 ILCS 405/1-5(6) to attend juvenile court proceedings. The news media is allowed access to the court docket for the limited purpose of determining when hearings are to be held.”

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