Accused blames alcohol, medicine for threats against judge
DANVILLE — A 56-year-old Home Gardens man claimed Wednesday that he was drunk and not on the prescription medicine he takes for seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses he has when he threatened to shoot a judge over the weekend.
"I didn't even know what I was doing," Jon S. Hill said at his initial hearing in Vermilion County Circuit Court where he was formally charged with one count of threatening a public official, a Class 3 felony.
State's Attorney Randy Brinegar said Hill allegedly called Circuit Judge Craig DeArmond at his home on Sunday morning and issued a death threat.
"We were able to trace phone records and come up with the defendant," Brinegar said.
When asking for a higher bond amount than is typical for a Class 3 felony, Assistant State's Attorney John Beardsley said Hill threatened to shoot the judge and offered specific details on how he would do that.
"We do take this threat very seriously," Beardsley said, adding Hill's military background indicates he's capable of carrying out the threat.
Hill lives in a mobile home park in the 200 block of East Hegeler Lane in unincorporated Home Gardens, south of Tilton. At his hearing, conducted via video conference, Hill, who was unshaven and disheveled-looking, told Associate Judge Mark Goodwin that he receives $690 a month in Social Security and disability benefits, so he couldn't afford to hire an attorney.
Hill also told Goodwin he is being treated for major-seizure disorder, PTSD, anxiety and depression, among other things, at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Heath Care System in Danville, and takes 28 kinds of medication.
"I don't remember well," Hill told Goodwin, adding he suffered a grand-mal seizure while in the Vermilion County Jail on Tuesday night. "I really need to get back on my medication."
Goodwin assigned a public defender to represent Hill. He also assured him that his attorney as well as jail officials were aware of his medical conditions and would address his needs.
The judge also set Hill's bond for $100,000, the amount requested by prosecutors. That means Hill must pay 10 percent of that amount, or $10,000, in order to be released.
In addition, Goodwin ordered that Hill have no contact with DeArmond or any members of the judge's family.
Hill's preliminary hearing is set for 2:30 p.m. June 7. If he's convicted, Hill could be sentenced to two to five years in prison and be fined up to $25,000.
"In my opinion, (the sentence for) threatening a judge should be higher than that, but that's what I'm left with," Brinegar said.
Brinegar said it's not unusual for a person to be upset at a judge. From time to time, someone will make a derogatory remark either directly or indirectly.
"But it's fairly rare that they would make a death threat and communicate that to them," Brinegar said, adding he doesn't know what Hill's motivation was.
In 2008, Hill was charged with one count of possession of methamphetamine for allegedly having less than 5 grams of the drug. DeArmond presided over the case.
However, Brinegar said, his office ended up dropping the charge after lab results came back inconclusive.
"They couldn't confirm it was an illegal substance," he said. "As far as what motivated him, I'm puzzled."