URBANA — A Champaign County judge ruled in favor of Champaign Mayor Don Gerard on Thursday, saying that an argument that occurred between him and a musician in a park in April did not constitute stalking.
Champaign musician Jim Bean had filed a petition asking that Gerard have no contact with him after the two exchanged words at Scott Park on a Saturday afternoon in early April, following a volunteer creek cleanup event.
After three hours' worth of witness testimony on Thursday, Judge Holly Clemons said Gerard was "guilty of poor judgment and ill-advised behavior" and probably has "anger-control issues," but he was not guilty of what Bean had described as stalking. She denied Bean's request for a no-contact order against Gerard.
Bean and Gerard both took the stand on Thursday, and in each of their stories, the other was the aggressor. Bean was volunteering to provide music entertainment during a lunch event following the cleanup and Gerard attended in his role as the mayor.
As Gerard walked through the park, they caught each other's attention and got into a verbal argument at least a couple times over the span of a few minutes.
"My intent was to avoid him," Gerard testified. "He was staring at me and I thought I heard him say something to me."
The incident escalated from there and ended with Gerard calling the police. Neither was ever charged with a crime.
Brad Bielert, an Urbana Park District employee who was working the event that day, was ordered to testify on Thursday under subpoena. He said what he saw was an aggressive Gerard in "a very animated, one-sided argument."
"It just looked aggressive," Bielert said. "I'm not saying it was, but it definitely looked aggressive."