Judge allows Quincy man facing grooming charge to return to university — if it will still take him
QUINCY — A Quincy man facing between one and three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, if found guilty of a Class 4 felony grooming charge, was allowed Friday to return to classes at the University of Illinois.
First, however, the state’s flagship school at Urbana-Champaign must be willing to take him back.
Giorgio Raad, 18, appeared in Adams County Circuit Court Friday afternoon with attorney Drew Schnack. He also faces one count of sexual exploitation of a child, a Class A misdemeanor. If found guilty, Raad also would have to register as a sex offender. He has no prior criminal record.
When Raad was charged on Nov. 8, Judge Tad Brenner placed him on home confinement and did not allow him to return to the University of Illinois, where he is a pre-med student. Raad also was ordered to have no access to the internet, unless it was for schoolwork, and no access to social media. Raad pled not guilty during his arraignment on Nov. 15.
Friday’s hearing was for Brenner to hear a motion by Schnack to modify Raad’s terms of pretrial release. The 30-minute hearing ended with Brenner allowing Raad to leave home to attend school and live in a dormitory.
Raad explained to Brenner he has a meeting during the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 9, with officials at the University of Illinois. Classes in Champaign are scheduled to begin Jan. 16.
“I’ll have that hearing, and then the dean told me within the next 24 to 48 hours, most likely they’ll let me know if the sanction will go on,” Raad said.
If the University of Illinois does not allow Raad to return, Brenner asked if he had a “Plan B” and had investigated possibly enrolling at John Wood Community College, Quincy University or Truman State University. Raad said he had not.
Schnack said he recently spoke with university officials during an investigative hearing. He said it was “his interpretation” that their concern was if the university would face a “liability issue” if Raad returned to campus. He said two sex offender evaluations of Raad — one by Dr. Frank Froman, a clinical psychologist from Quincy, and Dr. Theresa Thompson-Loy with New Beginnings Counseling of Effingham — indicated he was a low risk to re-offend.
“That has been addressed, at least to their satisfaction, because of his abilities and his grades, and I think, quite frankly, his ability to pay his tuition,” Schnack said. “They want him.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Keck wasn’t as sure about Raad’s future in Champaign.
“I appreciate that Mr. Schnack believes it’s going to happen,” she said. “I don’t know what the University of Illinois is to do, but my experience is that universities don’t like sex offenders. I’m sorry to say that, but they don’t. I actually feel the opposite. I don’t think he’s going back to the University of Illinois. I base that on what I’ve seen in other places.”
“The bottom line is, none of us know,” Brenner replied.
“You know, the basketball player is still enrolled in the university,” Schnack said about Terrence Shannon Jr., who has been suspended from all Fighting Illini team activities after he was charged in December with rape following an alleged sexual assault that happened in September in Kansas.
Brenner also ordered that Raad stay more than 2,000 feet from the alleged victim and her residence.
Raad’s case remains on the February jury docket — which frustrated Schnack during his argument on Friday. The case originally was on the January docket.
“Whenever defense attorneys come into court for sentences, one of the things we like to stress the importance of is not to put this defendant in jail because he has a job,” Schnack said. “Don’t put this defendant in jail, because he’s in school. Let this young man out on probation or conditional discharge because he needs to continue with his education. We want them to enroll and finish their GEDs. We want them to finish high school. We want them to go to college. We want them to be successful.
“Here’s a young man who, because of the bond restrictions, all that’s being taken away from him. He can’t go to college. He can’t continue on with his career. He can’t be successful. … Our community will be better off with him with an education, as opposed to him waking up every morning and helping his mom and dad with the dishes and watching Jeopardy. Everything’s backward here.”
Keck argued the sex offender evaluations by Froman and Thompson-Roy were “exactly what she thought they would be.”
“I didn’t expect Mr. Raad to be high risk. I didn’t expect him to be low risk. I expected him to be average risk, which is what he was found to be,” she said. “The risk assessment was exactly what I expected, and (the reports said) he does need treatment to understand what exactly happened, and to quote Miss Loy, understand the legal and moral influences of consent and to understand the negative impact sexual behavior can have.
“Allowing Mr. Raad the ability to go to school opens up a whole host of other issues. It’s harder to monitor him. It’s harder to ensure there are not issues with additional victims, and especially in this case, where the facts indicate the offenses occurred by the use of social media, the defendant was able to be in a private area and commit these offenses. That all certainly causes additional potential harms.”
Charging documents allege Raad used the internet on Sept. 23 to communicate and attempt to seduce, solicit or entice the child, to commit criminal sexual abuse or otherwise engage in any unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with another person claimed to be a child — in this case, a 13-year-old female victim. Raad allegedly sent pictures of his sex organs to the girl and multiple text messages of a sexual nature.
Raad’s next appearance in court is Jan. 19 for a pre-trial hearing.
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