URBANA — A Champaign County jury Thursday convicted a Savoy woman of aggravated battery for slugging an employee of an Urbana health foods store in a tussle over a box.
Latoya J. Brown, 40, will be sentenced Sept. 23 by Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis. She faces penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison for the felony conviction.
Testimony in her trial was that she had gone to Strawberry Fields at 306 W. Springfield Ave., on Dec. 20 to get empty boxes.
Employee Wyatt Bunn, 21, said he was unloading boxes when he heard a woman he identified as Brown dumping products out of a box on to the floor.
"I told her she couldn't do that," he said, adding that when she continued to dump items out, he put a hand on the box and pushed it to the ground.
"She said something, then hit me on the forehead with keys in her hand," said Bunn, who added he sustained a cut that bled but didn't require medical attention.
Bunn said he then grabbed Brown by her biceps and walked her backwards down the aisle. He and three other employees testified that Brown was yelling and cursing and was asked to leave.
"Nothing like this ever happens in Strawberry Fields," said catering director Adam Wright, who told Brown that employees were going to call the police. She responded that she was going to call police too.
Employee Gregory Pino said when Brown asked him about boxes, he told her he would unload boxes for her if she would point out to him which ones she wanted. He said she then walked off and moments later he heard a scuffle, saw people around Brown, and Bunn holding his head.
Pino said Brown repeatedly told people not to touch her.
Urbana police officer David Roesch said when he arrived, Brown was in the parking lot yelling at a UI police officer who she said had "touched her for no reason."
Roesch said Brown told him that she had permission to take any box in the store and that when an employee yelled at her for doing so and pushed her, she hit him.
In her own defense, Brown testified that Bunn told her to empty a box if she wanted it — Bunn said he had not told her that — and that when she started taking the product out, he yelled at her.
"I was confused. He told me I could have the box then he told me I couldn't and was yelling at me. I was in shock," Brown testified.
She said that Bunn used his upper chest to push her, causing her to falter backward. Keeping her balance, she said she hit him. "I didn't intend to hit him. I just swung at him to get him to stop. I yelled, 'Don't touch me,'" she said.
Brown admitted using profanity in the presence of the store employees. She denied arguing with the UI police officer in the parking lot but admitted she wanted to file a complaint against him.
Court records indicate Brown was examined by Champaign psychiatrist Lawrence Jeckel, who found her fit to stand trial — that is, understand the proceedings against her and cooperate with her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jamie Propps.
Assistant State's Attorney Duke Harris said Brown rejected an offer to resolve the case short of trial.