Jury convicts man of weapon, theft charges

Jury convicts man of weapon, theft charges

URBANA — A Rantoul man who possessed a stolen rifle at another man's home last fall has been convicted of weapon and theft charges.

A Champaign County jury on Wednesday deliberated about two hours before convicting Matthew E. Conley, 31, whose last known address was in the 1200 block of Falcon Drive, of unlawful use of weapons by a felon and theft over $300.

Judge Tom Difanis set sentencing for April 15. Conley faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the weapons charge.

The trial was Conley's second on the charges. Difanis declared a mistrial March 1 when another jury couldn't reach a unanimous verdict.

The charges stemmed from a Nov. 20 attack by Conley on a man living down the street from where Conley was staying.

Assistant State's Attorney Scott Bennett said Conley's girlfriend, Latisha Miller, testified that he woke her in the early morning hours to have her drive him down the street to the apartment of John Parker, 23, who was living in the 1200 block of Falcon Drive.

Miller testified that she assumed Conley wanted her to take him to Parker's so Conley could pay Parker money he owed him.

She said when they were knocking at Parker's apartment, Conley was carrying a long object with a sheet over it. Once the door was answered, Miller said Conley pushed her aside and that the sheet came off the object, revealing a rifle, which Conley pointed at Parker.

Parker grabbed the barrel of the gun, and with the assistance of his brother, the two were able to get the gun from Conley and pin him against a car outside until Rantoul police arrived.

Police arrested Conley but also took Parker into custody after finding more than a gram of crack cocaine in his apartment. The jury heard no reference to Parker's drug possession, a charge he pleaded guilty to in mid-January in return for a sentence of probation and a promise to testify against Conley. Bennett said he filed a petition to revoke Parker's probation in early February when Parker failed to show up to the probation office and hasn't been heard from since, including at Conley's trial.

The police learned that the gun Conley used was stolen two days earlier from the rural Paxton home of James Ehmen, whose family Conley had stayed with between the summer of 2012 up until a few days before the Nov. 20 incident with Parker.

Ehmen, his wife, and son, testified they were at church on Nov. 18 for a couple of hours and returned home to find their house broken into and two guns missing.

They also testified that each of them received cell phone calls from Conley while they were at church.

Conley had initially been charged with attempted armed robbery because Parker told Rantoul police that Conley ordered him to "give it up."

But without a victim to testify to that, and a pretrial ruling from Difanis that there could be no mention of Parker's drug possession, Bennett dismissed that charge as well as a count of aggravated assault alleging that Conley threatened Parker with the rifle.

Conley was represented at both trials by Assistant Public Defender Amanda Riess. He did not testify.

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ilpatriot wrote on March 13, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Maximum of 10, out in 5. If this case had been heard in Federal court the punishment would have been much greater. And it would have saved state and local taxpayers money.

Excerpt from Project Safe Neighborhoods.


If you steal guns or possess guns that you have reasonable cause to believe were stolen, you can go to prison for up to 10 years.


Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide commitment to get gun-wielding criminals off America's streets. In every community, federal, state and local law enforcement are working together to arrest, prosecute and put in prison criminals who illegally use or possess guns.

Under Project Safe Neighborhoods, United States Attorneys are ready to bring cases involving illegal guns to federal court. Prosecution in federal court means that if you are caught using or possessing a gun illegally, you probably won't be entitled to bail - instead, you'll go straight to jail. And if you are convicted in a federal court, you'll serve your entire sentence in prison with no parole.

There are no second chances under this program.