Ex-Illini in court today on weapons charges
Sinclair's attorneys plan to move for dismissal, say he'd have been protected by concealed-carry law
URBANA — Felony weapons charges against Matt Sinclair should be dismissed because they violate his Second Amendment rights, his attorneys plan to argue today in court.
Sinclair, 31, a former University of Illinois football player and staff member, was arrested on Nov. 23 after a motorist saw him point a gun at another vehicle on Interstate 74 in Urbana.
He was charged with three felonies — aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, not having a valid concealed-carry permit and using the gun in the commission of a misdemeanor. Those charges are Class 4 felonies punishable by one to three years in prison.
Sinclair's attorneys, Roger B. Webber and J. Steven Beckett, have argued in court documents that a portion of the law cited for their client's arrest is unconstitutional. They say that Sinclair should be protected under the state's recently passed concealed-carry law.
At issue is the timeline: Illinois passed concealed-carry in July 2013 but didn't begin issuing permits until earlier this month.
Sinclair's attorneys argue that had he had a concealed-carry permit at the time of his arrest, his actions would not be criminal. But in November, state police were still developing procedures to qualify for a permit.
The attorneys argue that Sinclair now meets most of the criteria to receive a permit under Illinois law. The one exception: He did not complete the required 16 hours of specified firearms training.
In the motion to dismiss, Sinclair's attorneys write "the right to possess and bear arms outside of the home ... is protected under the 2nd and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and corollary provisions of the Illinois State Constitution."
Judge Heidi Ladd is scheduled to consider the motions at 2:30 p.m. today at the Champaign County Courthouse.
Sinclair was arrested around 4 p.m. Nov. 23 after a driver behind him saw him point the gun out the window of the pickup truck he was driving. The witness, Marin Lowder, called 911.
In an interview with The News-Gazette three days later, she described the scene as being like something out of a "bad thriller movie."
"I slammed on my brakes and said 'I have to call 911,' and that's what I did," she said. "You don't know, if he does shoot, what are we going to do? Everything is running through your mind."
Sinclair was on his way back from West Lafayette, Ind., where hours earlier Illinois had beaten Purdue to end a 20-game Big Ten losing streak. According to the police report, he said he had the gun with him for protection and was joking when he pointed it at the SUV that had co-workers in it.
Police pulled over Sinclair near Green Street after he exited at Lincoln Avenue, according to the report. They found an unloaded gun in the center console of his pickup truck, a magazine loaded with 16 rounds of ammunition in the driver's side door pocket and a set of brass knuckles.
In addition to the three Class 4 felonies, Sinclair was also charged with a misdemeanor for possessing brass knuckles.
At the time of his arrest, the former UI linebacker was just seven months into an $80,000-a-year job as assistant director of player personnel and relations.
On Nov. 24, he was placed on administrative leave. On Feb. 28, UI football coach Tim Beckman announced that Sinclar had resigned, adding, "He has to be a little more mature."
Then, a week ago, Beckman announced that former Illini quarterback Juice Williams had been hired as the team's new director of alumni and former player relations.
NOV. 23: UI football staffer Matt Sinclair arrested on 3 gun charges, all felonies.
DEC. 3: Sinclair pleads not guilty to all charges.
FEB. 28: UI football coach Tim Beckman announces Sinclair's resignation.
MARCH 24: Sinclair due before Judge Heidi Ladd at the Champaign County Courthouse.