Standby attorney appointed to assist Yohn as he prepares to defend himself in sexual assault case

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Bradley Yohn refers to his notes while making a point during his motion hearing on Thursday morning in Adams County Circuit Court. In the background is bailiff Chad Downs. | Pool photo by Matt Hopf / Quincy Herald-Whig

QUINCY — Judge Roger Thomson appointed standby counsel for Bradley Yohn, a Springfield man charged with four Class X felonies in Adams County in connection with a Nov. 9, 2021 sexual assault case who is defending himself for a second time.

Thomson selected public defender Todd Nelson, Yohn’s attorney from July 20 until Thomson dismissed him from the case (by Yohn’s request) on Sept. 7, during a motion hearing Thursday morning in Adams County Circuit Court.

Yohn filed a motion on Sept. 9 requesting standby counsel. Thomson asked him why it was necessary.

“I am not associated with the (Illinois State) bar, and there are things that even people associated with the bar understand are might not be quite familiar with,” Yohn replied. “I’m asking for standby counsel as an assistant to me, not as a lawyer or as an appointed defender.”

“What do you perceive the standby counsel to be performing?” Thomson asked. “Are they going to be a phone-a-friend? You call them up and you’ve got a question about, ‘Hey, I need to know this?’”

“I’m going to need them to visit with me and help me to form a defense,” Yohn replied. “To educate me on certain matters that I had questions about, possibly even be able to call.”

Yohn agreed with Thomson’s term of standby counsel serving as a “research assistant.” He said he did not expect standby counsel to sit with him during the trial.

Yohn, 35, is charged with home invasion, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated vehicular hijacking and aggravated criminal sexual assault with a weapon. He allegedly committed the crimes on 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 also filed a motion on Sept. 9 for the preservation of the audio and video of all formal and official court proceedings. During his argument on the motion, he said Thomson and assistant state’s attorney Josh Jones had violated his rights several times.

“I am not going to allow the defendant to cast dispersions on myself as an attorney or this court for violations of rights without him specifically stating how I or this court have violated his rights,” Jones interjected.

Thomson said all court proceedings have taken place with a court reporter present to preserve the official record. 

“So what are you asking for beyond a transcript?” he asked.

“There have been records and transcripts manipulated before,” Yohn replied. “Not to discredit this woman (court reporter Kathy Genenbacher) here, but there have been several different reporters in my court proceedings. Not everybody is just automatically deemed to be honest. I’m asking for it on video to be preserved.”

Thomson explained the official transcript of court proceedings is the only document prepared by a court reporter.

Yohn also filed on Tuesday two motions for disclosure of discovery. The first series of motions was a request for worksheets, evidence manifests, chains of custody and laboratory reports from the Illinois State Police. Jones agreed to contact the ISP to retrieve some documents Yohn requested. He also said some documents already were turned over to Yohn. The cutoff for discovery in Yohn’s case, set to begin Nov. 7, is Sept. 30.

However, when asked about a particular crime scene worksheet, Jones said, “I’m not sure what he’s talking about as far as a crime scene worksheet. I know there was a crime scene worksheet that was turned over in discovery, so we’ve given him what we have.”

Yohn replied, “Your honor, I’m going to have to object. If Mr. Jones does not know what a crime scene worksheet is …”

Jones exploded. “I’m not going to sit here …,” he said before Thomson stopped him.

“We’re not going to get out of hand on either side,” Thomson said.

Yohn later asked about a chain of custody document. Thomson said it would be provided to him if it existed, but “the state is not obligated to generate the document.”

“I can respect that,” Yohn said. “If I could say one thing …”

Thomson interrupted him and said, “This is not a conversation. I’m ruling on a motion. I ruled on that issue. We’re moving on.”

“I object, your honor,” Yohn said.

“Objection overruled,” Thomson sternly replied.

A second series of disclosure motions were requests for:

  • Video from Instant Replay on Nov. 9, 2021;
  • Video of Karen Blackledge, arrested with Yohn on Nov. 10, 2021, when the Springfield Police Department transported her to Quincy on Nov. 15, 2021;
  • A JPay video (which allows people to connect with someone in prison) on Nov. 10, 2021;
  • A video statement made by Blackledge to the Springfield Police Department on Nov. 12, 2021.

“These are all things that prove my innocence without a doubt,” Yohn said.

Jones said all videos from Yohn’s cellphone have been turned over, and videos from the Springfield Police Department would be turned over later in the day. Yohn then asked if he could continue the motion for a week so he could bring his laptop to a future hearing.

Yohn objected at the beginning of the hearing about a request for extended media coverage, which allows for cameras to be in the courtroom.

“It’s a violation of my due process and constitutional rights,” he said. “(The media coverage) has been very extensive and prejudiced against me.”

Thomson overruled to Yohn’s objection. Extended media coverage of the case was first granted in November 2021.

Yohn also complained about the method by which documents are being delivered to him in the jail. He said the circuit clerk’s office has returned subpoenas and letters submitted by him that were not stamped or filed in the courthouse but were returned by corrections officers in the jail.

“(The corrections officers) may work for the state, but they also have the benefit of reading them before they deliver them,” Yohn said. “That is all knowledge that can be relayed by the officials to people in the public. Letters are not to be known to the public or the media. For them to be handled with no fold marks shows me they weren’t sealed in an envelope, and that breaks the confidentiality rule.”

Thomson suggested Yohn use the U.S. Mail for all future correspondence.

Yohn also asked for all digital and paper discovery in his case to be kept in the same place and asked to be moved from his segregated cell to the general jail population.

“The whole purpose of being released from the hole is to be granted due process to work at a reasonable time to do research and case law,” he said. “I’m not a disciplinary issue.”

Thomson allowed for the discovery to be kept in the same place, but the decision about where Yohn is housed was left to the jail staff.

Bailiffs were escorting Yohn from the courtroom when he looked at four of Schmitt’s family members and said, “I didn’t do anything to your all’s mother.” 

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

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