Charges dismissed against 2 in home invasion after co-defendant refuses to testify

Charges dismissed against 2 in home invasion after co-defendant refuses to testify

URBANA — Uncooperative witnesses forced a prosecutor to dismiss charges Tuesday against two men accused in the violent home invasion and robbery of an elderly Champaign man about a year ago.

Assistant State's Attorney Matt Banach said a "critical" witness in his case against Anthony Wilkins, 22, and Nevalle Booker, 19, is now refusing to cooperate in their prosecution for the Oct. 14, 2016, home invasion, armed robbery and aggravated robbery of an 87-year-old man who lived in the 1500 block of North McKinley Avenue.

The witness Banach was talking about is co-defendant Jamar Holbrook, 19, whose last known local address was in the 1100 block of Joanne Lane, Champaign.

Holbrook was charged with the same offenses as Wilkins, Booker and another man, David Austin, 19, of Champaign. Austin pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in August for his role in the crime and faces up to 15 years in prison when sentenced Oct. 5.

Banach said Holbrook, who was charged after the other three, was found in suburban Minneapolis on Sept. 1 and was returned to Champaign County last week. Banach said he met with Holbrook and his attorney on Monday to prepare for trial in the cases of Wilkins and Booker.

"Holbrook refused to testify in either trial against the co-defendants in spite of being made an offer by the state to take such testimony into consideration," Banach said.

A second female witness also recanted her prior statements, which were not recorded, Banach said.

"Since no forensics came back to either of these two co-defendants and the elderly victim was unable to make any personal identifications of any of the robbers, the state was left with insufficient evidence to proceed to trial," Banach said.

Banach praised Champaign police for doing a thorough investigation of the crime, which resulted in the victim losing thousands of dollars in cash, guns, jewelry, collector coins and Boy Scout memorabilia. Having been threatened with death by the intruders who had an object that the man believed was a gun, he later moved out of his home.

"Anytime key witnesses are from within the defendant's inner circle, it's problematic, to say the least," said Banach.

A fingerprint on the victim's TV that matched Austin linked him to the crime. It was Holbrook's initial statements that linked Wilkins, Booker and himself to it.

Banach said Holbrook is still charged, but Banach declined to comment on the strength of his case against Holbrook.

Wilkins was resentenced to 4 1 / 2 years in prison two weeks ago in a 2014 aggravated battery case in which he squeezed or hit his then-2-month-old daughter. At that hearing, Judge Roger Webber heard evidence about the Oct. 14, 2016, home invasion in which Wilkins was implicated.

Booker also remains in the county jail awaiting trial on an aggravated battery charge stemming from an incident a year ago in Campustown.

Booker was one of eight men charged with aggravated battery to a man in the 300 block of East Green Street, Champaign, on Sept. 25, 2016. The victim had been at a party where several men thought he spilled a drink on a guest. They turned on him in the parking lot, beating and kicking him to unconsciousness.

That led to shots being fired by the downed man's friend, Robbie Patton, 19, of Champaign. None of the kickers was hit, but shots that Patton allegedly fired hit four other bystanders, killing one and wounding three.

Patton's trial for the murder of George Korchev, 22, of Mundelein, and the wounding of the bystanders is scheduled to start next week.

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airrecon wrote on September 19, 2017 at 9:09 pm

More fine examples of humanity. We're gonna crash and burn. wrote on September 20, 2017 at 8:09 am

If the charges were dismissed for whatever the reasons it is unacceptable for the NG to publish the photo of the accuser.

If I were in that situation I will sue the newspaper. Everybody is presumed innocent and this guy was not convicted of any crime.


GLG wrote on September 20, 2017 at 12:09 pm

I'm sure this is not the last we will see of these punks.