After failing to change lawyers, Quincy man facing sex offense charges picks bench trial over plea deal

Nelson and Aaron Washington

Aaron Washington, right, listens to judge Robert Adrian during a hearing Wednesday afternoon in Adams County Circuit Court. At left is Chief Public Defender Todd Nelson. | David Adam

QUINCY — A Quincy man indicted in October 2022 on multiple sex offense charges chose not to accept a plea agreement and tried to get a new lawyer before agreeing to have a bench trial in December.

Aaron Washington, 47, appeared with Chief Public Defender Todd Nelson before Judge Robert Adrian on Wednesday afternoon in Adams County Circuit Court. Adrian announced at the beginning of the hearing he was prepared for the entry of a negotiated plea that had been agreed to on Nov. 29.

However, Nelson told him Washington was asking for a different attorney. Nelson had been Washington’s attorney since December 2022 when he replaced Vanessa Pratt, who took a job as a law clerk for Justice Amy Lannerd with the Fourth District Appellate Court.

When Adrian asked why he wanted another attorney, Washington replied, “I’ve been talking to Mr. Mark Taylor (an attorney in the Adams County Public Defender Office) and telling him about my case and what’s going on. He’s been seeing me more than my attorney.”

Adrian quickly denied the motion. He then asked Washington if he wanted to enter the plea negotiation or if he wanted to keep the dates of Dec. 14-15 for his bench trial. Washington said he would plea.

Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Keck then said Washington would plead guilty to one count of unlawful failure to register his vehicle as part of his duties as a sex offender, a Class 2 felony, and one count of criminal sexual assault, a Class 1 felony. A grand jury had found Washington committed an act of sexual penetration with a family member under the age of 18 in that he “made contact with the sex organ or anus.”

Washington would have received three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for the failure to register count and 11 years, served at 85 percent, on the criminal sexual assault count. 

As part of the plea negotiation, one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a family member under the age of 18 would have been dismissed, as well as three counts of failing to register as a sex offender (failing to register a phone number, an address and a Facebook account), one count of being a sex offender failing to register as residing within 500 feet of a school, one count of unlawful communication with a child and one count of unlawful providing service to a person under the age of 18.

Adrian asked Nelson, “Is that your agreement?” 

Nelson replied, “That is the agreement.” As Nelson spoke, Washington shook his head while looking back at his sister in the courtroom.

Adrian then asked Washington, “Mr. Washington, is that your agreement?” 

Washington replied, “No.”

Adrian then set the case for the bench trial.

Keck told Adrian she was prepared to try the case with the two criminal sexual assault charges.

“First, we are still waiting on business records affidavits from Facebook,” she said. “I have not really been pursuing those because I believed this plea negotiation was going to occur, but I will try to get those by next week.”

Quincy Police began investigating Washington in September 2022 after receiving information about alleged illegal contact he had with a 13-year-old Quincy girl. Investigators learned Washington had multiple social media sites, vehicles and other items he had failed to report on his sex offender registration as required by law. Investigators also learned Washington was living at an address on North 12th Street within 500 feet of Iles Elementary, 3111 N. 12th. 

Several minor children were interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center, and search warrants were executed on Washington’s electronic devices and social media.

Washington’s case had been set for a jury trial in January, February, April, June, July and September before he agreed to enter a plea on Sept. 20. However, Washington changed his mind and eventually opted on Oct. 18 for a bench trial.

Washington remains in the Adams County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

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