Adams County jury finds former deputy guilty of aggravated battery charges, not guilty of armed violence

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QUINCY — Both sides got something — but not everything they hoped for — on Tuesday night when an Adams County jury of six men and six women found a former deputy with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department guilty of two felonies but not guilty of the most serious charge leveled against him.

A two-day jury trial for Cody R. Shaffer, 31, of Loraine ended Tuesday after the jury deliberated for approximately three hours. He was found guilty of aggravated domestic battery by strangulation, a Class 2 felony, punishable for between three and seven years in prison; and aggravated battery of a pregnant person, a Class 3 felony, punishable for between two and five years in prison.

However, the jury found Shaffer was not guilty of armed violence, a Class X felony, punishable for between six and 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Shaffer showed no emotion as he listened to the verdict being read.

Brittany Abercrombie, the former girlfriend who claimed she was strangled, bitten and had a loaded gun shoved into her throat and pointed at her stomach by Shaffer, wept and trembled as she heard the verdict, then buried her head on the shoulder of her father, Earl Abercrombie.

“She was very emotional, very thankful,” Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Keck said after the conclusion of the trial. “I think the jury believed her. She’s just very happy right now.”

Judge Mark Vincent set Shaffer’s sentencing for June 27. He allowed Shaffer to remain on electronic monitoring, as he has been since his arrest, rather than have him sit in the Adams County Jail until his sentencing.

The case was given to the jury at 3:20 p.m. The jury sent one request and two questions to Vincent as it deliberated.

The request, made after about an hour of deliberation, was to listen again to the 15-minute audio recording Abercrombie made in the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2023. Abercrombie testified Monday that when she heard Shaffer come home that night, she pressed a button on her phone to record a video and placed it face down on the bed they shared.

Assistant State’s Attorney Josh Jones played parts of the recording during his closing statement Tuesday afternoon.

The jury also sent two questions to Vincent. One asked if the jury couldn’t agree on a verdict, at what point did it have a hung jury? Vincent’s reply was for the jury to continue deliberating. The second question, given to Vincent at 6:04 p.m., asked for the legal definition of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Vincent replied that the definition was to be determined by the jurors themselves.

A verdict was reached at 6:23 p.m.

“I think the jury was excellent at listening to the evidence, listening to everything, weighing all the evidence carefully and coming to a very good decision,” Keck said.

Judge Mark Vincent | David Adam

After the jury’s first question was given to Vincent, defense attorney Drew Schnack said he made an offer to Jones and Keck — a guilty plea to aggravated domestic battery by strangulation in exchange for a sentence of probation (along with the 15 months already served with electronic monitoring).

Schnack said Jones and Keck declined the offer after consulting with Abercrombie.

“I can see where anybody looking at it from afar with a non-jaundiced eye would think that the verdict was just,” Schnack said after the conclusion of the trial.

He said he didn’t believe sufficient evidence existed regarding the strangulation or Shaffer allegedly hitting Abercrombie with a gun that should have led to the armed violence charge.

“I shouldn’t say it, but I will. I think it was overcharged because he was a cop,” Schnack said. “When I first started out (as an attorney), lawyers and doctors and cops got a free pass. The pendulum is swinging the other way. Lawyers and doctors and cops are treated harsher, and I think Cody was treated harsher. I don’t think it should have been charged as that.

“The other two counts, there was sufficient evidence to convict him. There also was a lack of evidence to convict him. And that’s what juries are for. This jury obviously had a hard time. They worked hard at it, and they came up with what they believed was the correct solution. I’ve got no choice other than to accept it.”

Shaffer’s sentences could be served concurrently. He must serve 85 percent of his sentence. However, he will have already served 17 months with electronic monitoring by the time June 27 rolls around.

“Traditionally, a normal defendant who’s not a sheriff’s deputy, who has no prior criminal record, who has led a squeaky-clean life, who is a homeowner and supports his family and is employed on a full-time basis is not sentenced to the penitentiary for a first-time offense, even on a Class 2 felony,” Schnack said. 

Schnack said Shaffer just wanted to “get it over.”

“Every defendant wants it over,” he said. “They want to win, but they want it over. He’s probably not happy with the verdict, but it is what it is. He can’t deny the evidence, the 15 minutes of audio. Pretty hard to work against that. It was the first time I’ve ever had to do it.”

Drew Schnack, left, and Cody Shaffer listen to Josh Jones’ closing statement during Shaffer’s trial Tuesday afternoon. | David Adam

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