URBANA — A Champaign County jury Wednesday acquitted a man of breaking into a northwest Champaign home last fall.
Jordan U. Johnson, 21, who listed an address in the 1200 block of West Eureka Street, Champaign, was found not guilty of residential burglary by a jury that deliberated about an hour.
Judge Harry Clem presided over the trial, which began Tuesday.
Johnson was accused of having entered a home in the 1200 block of Joanne Lane between Oct. 21 and 23 while the woman was out of town. A Social Security card and a debit card were stolen.
Johnson was linked to the crime after his thumbprint was found on a torn envelope in the woman's house.
Johnson told the jury that some time before that weekend, he had been walking in that neighborhood on his way to his girlfriend's home when he saw a piece of mail on the ground, picked it up and put it in that woman's mailbox.
Assistant State's Attorney Duke Harris called that defense "preposterous" and said Johnson fashioned the excuse after learning of the fingerprint evidence.
"The defendant's explanation is not believable. It's too coincidental," said the prosecutor, who had no comment later on the jury's verdict.
Johnson's attorney, Dan Jackson of Champaign, had argued that there were no other fingerprints found inside the woman's home, where several items were out of place after the break-in. He theorized that the burglar wore gloves.
He further argued that it made no sense that there would be only one thumbprint on the torn envelope when it would have taken two hands to rip it open.
"Not only is it a reasonable explanation," he said of the mail on the ground having been picked up by Johnson, "but it fits the evidence."
Harris countered that Jackson was engaging in "some sort of CSI fantasy" to suggest that "every time something is touched, a fingerprint is left."
In May, another jury acquitted Johnson of a residential burglary that happened Sept. 13 at a home in the 2400 block of Clayton Boulevard in Champaign.
In that break-in, a flat-screen television was stolen. A witness saw a man he identified as Johnson hiding the TV behind a tree in a nearby park.
Johnson still faces two other charges of residential burglary alleging break-ins to homes on Sept. 23 in the 1000 block of North James Street and the 400 block of West Beardsley Avenue in Champaign.
Harris filed those charges Monday. Johnson was arraigned on them and told to be back in court Aug. 6 with a lawyer. He's being held in lieu of $100,000 bond on those cases.
Also Monday, Harris dismissed another case against Johnson in which he was accused of aggravated battery and domestic battery after the victim declined to cooperate in his prosecution.
Court records show Johnson has convictions for attempted residential burglary in 2010 and felony criminal damage to property in 2009.