Militaman guilty of intimidation

Knox jury asks for dictionary copies, U.S. Constitution during deliberations

Peoria Journal-Star/November 4, 2000
By Jodi Popeschil

Western Militia leader Dan Shoemaker, accused of threatening to kill police if they tried to stop an armed march he announced for mid-June, was convicted late Friday by a Knox County jury on eight of the 13 counts against him.

Shoemaker, 47, of Galesburg was convicted on two counts of aggravated intimidation, three counts of threatening a public official and three counts of unlawful use of weapons.

He was found not guilty of two counts of aggravated intimidation, two counts of threatening a public official and one count of resisting a peace officer.

"The jury obviously considered this very serious due to the fact there were not guilty verdicts on some of the charges," said Knox County public defender Jim Harrell. "I'm concerned about the convictions ... the rights of the militia man. I think the jury addressed that."

Sentencing was set for Dec. 15. A request to revoke Shoemaker's $1.3 million bond was denied.

Special Prosecutor Tim Huyett said he has not decided what sentence he will seek. Aggravated intimidation is considered "super Class 2" felony punishable by three to 14 years in prison, he said.

Authorities say Shoemaker announced plans to march through downtown Galesburg and Monmouth on June 17 while carrying a semiautomatic rifle.

He was arrested June 15 at an Abingdon school, where he worked as a janitor. The nine-woman, three-man jury reached its verdict at about 10:30 p.m. Deliberations began about 2 p.m. By 4 p.m., the jury had sent out a note asking for copies of a dictionary and the U.S. Constitution.

Trial testimony began Wednesday. Shoemaker declined to take the stand in his own defense, which rested Friday.

Harrell called no witnesses Friday morning but showed the jury an almost one-hour videotape of a June 3 meeting Shoemaker had with Warren County Sheriff Richard "Floaty" Hart and Monmouth Police Chief Gary Morefield.

Shoemaker had a similar meeting the same day with Knox County Sheriff Jim Thompson and Galesburg Police Chief John Schlaf.

On the tape, Morefield and Hart talk with Shoemaker about his planned march. "If you come battle-ready, we're going to have to stop you," Hart said. "There ought to be some way to work this out before we get to that point." Shoemaker asks Hart and Morefield what they think public opinion will be if his marches take place.

"There's going to be some people that's going to say that Dan Shoemaker was an idiot," Hart said. "And there's going to be some people that say, 'Well, that Sheriff Hart was a stupid - - - - - - - ,' you know."

After Hart says "death is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," Shoemaker tells the officers he will be free or dead June 17.

In closing arguments, Harrell said that during Shoemaker's June 3 meetings with police, he was coerced into making threats of violence against police. "They couldn't have scripted this better," Harrell said. "Say the magic words, Dan."

Huyett said that Shoemaker made up his mind long before his meetings with police.

"His beliefs are not on trial here, his conduct is," Huyett said. "The time for playing Army is done."

Shoemaker is being held in the Knox County Jail on $1.3 million bond.

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