Yohn dismisses second public defender, will defend himself again; says he’s ‘being treated like an animal, like an Afghan terrorist’

Yohn writing

Bradley Yohn, shown making notes during a May 18 hearing in Adams County Circuit Court, will be representing himself pro se in his case, which is on the November jury docket. | File photo by David Adam

QUINCY — Bradley Yohn is defending himself for a second time.

The Springfield man, charged with four Class X felonies in Adams County in connection with a Nov. 9, 2021 sexual assault, filed a motion on Aug. 24 to claim public defender Todd Nelson has been ineffective as his counsel and asked to represent himself pro se in his case. 

Judge Roger Thomson granted Yohn his wish Wednesday morning in Adams County Circuit Court, dismissing Nelson from the case. Yohn is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 12 for a status hearing before Thomson. A pre-trial hearing was set for Oct. 26, and Yohn’s case now is on the November jury docket.

Yohn, 35, is charged with home invasion, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated vehicular hijacking and aggravated criminal sexual assault with a weapon. The crimes reportedly were committed Nov. 9, 2021, at the home of Christine “Tina” Schmitt, who died on Dec. 12. Yohn could be sentenced to serve between six and 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections if he’s found guilty of any Class X felony.

Yohn has been down this road before. Public defender John Citro was dismissed as Yohn’s lawyer on May 11, and Yohn was allowed to defend himself. However, moments before jury selection began on June 21, Yohn told Thomson, “I can’t do this.” Thomson then appointed Nelson as Yohn’s attorney on July 20, but a month later, Yohn decided that arrangement wasn’t working either.

Yohn began his argument to dismiss Nelson from the case by stating he “seems to be a decent lawyer.” However, he was unhappy that Nelson had only met with him twice since July 20 — once in a video interview.

“They call it a very complex case here, but I don’t believe it’s that complex at all,” Yohn said. “Yes, there are some things really needing some attention, but Mr. Nelson is not coming to speak to me to formulate a defense, to file motions, to ask me what I would like to have done. He’s not done the obvious that most lawyers often do from the jump.”

Yohn also was unhappy that neither Citro nor Nelson had filed paperwork for a change of venue. He then complained about his treatment in the Adams County Jail and was unnerved that 11 bailiffs or Adams County Sheriff’s Department employees were in the courtroom Wednesday.

“I’m being treated like an animal, like an Afghan terrorist,” he said. “I don’t do anything to be treated like this, to have corrections stand around like this. I’m one of the ‘polite-ist,’ most pleasant people in the county jail. I think quite a few corrections officers would attest to that.”

Yohn then complained about Nelson again, saying he’s “burdened” by a large caseload. 

“It’s only right that the court should appoint somebody who is mainly focused on this case at hand,” he said. “The days of Johnnie Cochran (a lawyer best known for his defense of O.J. Simpson in his 1995 double-murder trial) are pretty much gone. Lawyers do not do as they used to at one point in time. They try to take away the easy way out, take your money and do as minimal as possible. Public defenders, we all know, they’re not here to truly represent us. They’re here to gain a minimal buck and keep it going. 

“And with 40 plus people in his (caseload), it’s not possible for Mr. Nelson to represent me. It doesn’t happen, your honor. It can’t happen.”

Nelson was seated next to Yohn but did not react to his accusations and did not look at him, staring straight ahead.

Yohn said if Nelson’s caseload was reduced, allowing him to spend more time on his case, he would be “willing to come to an agreement.”

When Thomson asked if he wanted another attorney appointed, Yohn said he would not accept another public defender. He added that the judicial process in Adams County won’t be “fair and impartial.”

“(Schmitt) was in very high standing with very high people, not just the mayor himself but past and present mayors,” Yohn claimed. “My stepfamily has a lot of knowledge of the family and are actually very close to the family. It’s just not possible for me to be treated fairly around here.”

Thompson repeated his question, asking if Yohn wanted to go pro se. Yohn finally said yes. The judge then admonished Yohn, telling him — among other things — that the effectiveness of his defense may be diminished by accepting the roles of both attorney and accused.

As the hearing neared its end, Yohn asked if the number of security officers in the courtroom was necessary. “I didn’t do anything to receive this attention,” he said. “This makes me look bad to the community.”

Thomson denied the request, saying security in the courtroom is determined by Adams County Sheriff Rich Wagner. 

Yohn also asked for the discovery in his case to be left in the law library at the Adams County Jail rather than in his own cell. Assistant state’s attorney Josh Jones objected, explaining other inmates have access to the library. Thomson agreed with Jones and told Yohn he would need to file a motion if he believes he needs more time with the law library to prepare for trial.

“So it’s pretty much one way or the other. It’s a railroad tactic,” Yohn said.

After staying quiet for most of the hearing, Jones angrily objected.

“I’m sorry, your honor. I’ve stood here multiple times, and I’ve heard dispersions on Mr. Nelson, I’ve heard dispersions on this court, and I’ve heard dispersions on the entire court system,” he said. “This court has been exceptionally reasonable and fair with Mr. Yohn, and you have let him go on and on. For him to call this a ‘railroad process’ is completely irresponsible and inappropriate.”

Yohn ended Wednesday’s hearing by apologizing to Thomson for a vulgar comment he made as he left the courtroom at the conclusion of a July 20 hearing. He then asked Thomson to recuse himself from the case because of that comment.

Thomson said he didn’t hear Yohn’s comment and would not recuse himself.

“Neither you nor any other defendant can control that by acting out in court against the court in any way,” he said. “Then you would be benefiting from your own wrongdoing.”

Yohn is being held in the Adams County Jail on $15 million bond.

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