Bribery case against state trooper moves forward
DANVILLE — Feeling threatened, a Tilton police officer blew the whistle on a state trooper who allegedly bought him a steak dinner in exchange for issuing his ex-girlfriend a traffic ticket, an investigator testified Thursday.
In Vermilion County Circuit Court, Illinois State Police investigator Kimberly Hart said Trooper Keith Lumsargis, a 13-year veteran of the department, offered Tilton police officer Ryan Schull a bribe on multiple occasions. At one point, he told Schull to get it done, Hart said.
"(Schull) took that as a threat," she testified.
That's when Schull reported the incident to his supervisor — Tilton Police Chief Steve Cornett — who contacted the state police's internal investigations division, Hart said.
Hart said investigators prepped Schull for his ensuing meetings with Lumsargis, telling him to act as if he were following through with the bribe.
Hart's testimony came during the preliminary hearing for Lumsargis, who faces two counts of bribery, a Class 2 felony, and two counts of official misconduct, a Class 3 felony. He is being represented by Danville attorney Frank Young. Circuit Judge Craig DeArmond found probable cause in the case Thursday, and moved it forward for trial.
Lumsargis, 44, of Westville, is free on bond.
He was arrested by state police on May 22 outside the Possum Trot restaurant, near Danville, where he allegedly bought Schull a steak dinner earlier that evening.
Hart said state police recorded several conversations between Schull and Lumsargis. One happened on May 14, when Lumsargis allegedly told Schull that Catlin-Tilton Road was the usual route driven by his ex-girlfriend, Mary Bailey.
So, under the coordination of state police investigators, Schull worked a traffic detail along Catlin-Tilton Road on May 16, allowing Lumsargis to believe he was there to stop Bailey and issue her a citation, Hart said. Investigators also made Bailey aware of the situation, telling her to avoid driving that route that day, Hart said.
That night, Schull showed Lumsargis a fake traffic ticket, making him believe he'd gone through with it, and Lumsargis promised Schull a steak dinner in return, Hart said.
On May 22, Lumsargis picked up Schull at the Tilton police department and took him to the Possum Trot, where they ate dinner. Schull was wearing a wire, allowing state police to listen in, Hart testified.
Lumsargis paid for Schull's dinner — it came to $26.18 — and was arrested on his way out of the restaurant, Hart said.
On cross-examination of Hart, Young asked if his client had indicated to Schull that he was concerned Bailey was driving drunk and speeding. Vermilion County Assistant State's Attorney Bill Brozovich objected to the question, which Young continued to ask Hart in various ways.
Hart did not confirm it, and DeArmond stopped Young's line of questioning, telling him the information would be irrelevant — even if Lumsargis had expressed such concerns — because it's illegal to pay an officer to issue someone a ticket.