Militia chief's trial remains in Galesburg

Defense denied motion to move it on grounds of extensive publicity

Peoria Journal Star/October 20, 2000
By Jodi Pospeschil

A defense motion to move militia leader Dan Shoemaker's trial because of extensive publicity was denied Thursday, paving the way for the trial to start Oct. 30 at the Knox County Courthouse.

The motion in circuit court by Dan Shoemaker, 47, and public defender Jim Harrell was denied by Judge Stephen Mathers.

Shoemaker, a Galesburg resident and leader of the Western Illinois Militia, is charged with four counts of aggravated intimidation, five counts of threatening a public official, three counts of unlawful use of a weapon on school property and one count of resisting arrest.

Shoemaker, 47, was arrested June 15 as he entered Abingdon Middle School, where he worked as a custodian. He had announced plans to march through down town Galesburg and Monmouth with a loaded weapon to exercise his right to bear arms. Authorities said he threatened to use force against police if they tried to stop him.

Shoemaker is being held in the Knox County Jail on $1.3 million bond. A $1 million warrant from Warren County with similar charges is awaiting Shoemaker should he post bond in Knox County.

On Thursday, Harrell presented the court with a large folder full of newspaper articles and transcribed copies of television and radio newscasts. He tried to show prejudice against Shoemaker based on the volume of material.

Harrell focused mainly on editorials and newspaper clippings from four newspapers: the Journal Star, the Burlington (Iowa) Hawkeye, the Register-Mail in Galesburg and the Daily Review Atlas in Monmouth.

Harrell read from Monmouth editorials that referred to Shoemaker as the "ayatollah of paranoia, a disgruntled school custodian with the IQ of a grape, a Rambo reject and a poster boy for gun control" and the militia as "Dan and the Weekend Wussies."

Mathers found that Harrell showed that a large volume of media attention has been focused on the case but not how many people had seen it. He said he would have like to have seen newspaper circulation figures and maps and coverage figures for the television and radio stations involved.

Another reason to move the trial, Harrell said, is the presence of deputies outside the courthouse when Shoemaker has a hearing.

A recent hearing was held the same day the final installment of property taxes was due in Knox County, allowing residents and potential jurors to see and walk through the tight security, Harrell said.

Attorney Ed Parkinson of the Appellate Prosecutor's Office in Springfield argued the tight security would follow wherever the trial was held "because of the nature of the charges."

Parkinson said an attempt should at least be made to seat a jury within the county first before a decision could be made whether a fair and impartial jury can be seated.

Shoemaker is a "publicity hound," Parkinson said.

"This man wants to have his words heard," Parkinson said. "He's caused his own publicity."

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