QUINCY — Judge Holly Henze on Monday denied Bradley Yohn’s request for a substitute judge in his jury trial scheduled to begin Nov. 7 in Adams County Circuit Court, telling him, “Just because a judge denies a motion or otherwise rules against a defendant doesn’t automatically mean the judge is prejudiced.”
Henze was called in as a substitute judge to hear Yohn’s motion. He filed the motion Sept. 22 asking for a substitution of judge. Judge Roger Thomson has presided at most of the hearings involving Yohn, as well as the jury trial that was scheduled to begin June 21 but was halted moments before jury selection was to begin.
Judge Amy Lannerd was appointed to preside over Monday’s hearing. However, after Yohn spent approximately 10 minutes pleading made his case about why Thomson should be replaced, he objected to Lannerd’s appointment as well.
“Just for the record, your honor, nothing personal,” he said. “But if you were to have been set as my trial judge, I would have done the same thing for you.”
Yohn claimed Lannerd told him during a hearing in December that he did not have the right to a 120-day trial, which he claimed was “prejudicial in itself.”
“I disagree with the characterization of the recital of statements that Mr. Yohn has given and attributed to this court,” Lannerd said. “I am not in any way suggesting this court has any reason I could not preside over the hearing today, but as Mr. Yohn is suggesting there may be an issue as it relates to for cause, then I will take a brief recess and Judge Henze will be available.”
About four minutes later, Henze stepped in.
“I don’t know how far you got with Judge Lannerd, but we’re going to start over,” she said.
Yohn complained about options given to him during June 21 hearing
Yohn then essentially repeated everything he told Lannerd.
He claimed he was given during a June 21 hearing a list of witnesses to be called to testify. He said two names had not been previously disclosed to him, nor had he received any written or audio/video statements from those two people.
Yohn said Thomson gave him was four options — proceed with the trial; waive the jury trial and accept a bench trial; return to his cell and let the trial proceed without him; or take an appointment of a public defender and have the trial continued. Yohn wrote in his motion that Thomson “placed the defendant at a very unfair disadvantage and violated his right to discovery … and also violated the defendant’s rights to self-representations.”
“(Thomson) then told me, ‘Mr. Yohn, this is my courtroom. You can make a decision, or I’ll make a decision for you,’” Yohn said during Monday’s hearing. “I was indirectly forced that day to take one of the four options, which I should not have had to. I should have had a fifth option, to proceed pro se (defending himself) with a continuation. Ultimately, that is not what happened.”
Yohn eventually accepted the appointment of public defender Todd Nelson, who he later dismissed.
‘Mr. Thompson blatantly lied,’ Yohn claimed
Yohn’s motion also noted he had asked Thomson to recuse himself from the case during a Sept. 7 hearing. Yohn made vulgar comments directed at Thomson as bailiffs escorted him from the courtroom following a status hearing on July 20. He apologized to Thomson, but he also said the comment could be used in a “prejudiced” way against him.
Thomson refused the request to recuse himself, claiming he didn’t he hear what Yohn said.
“Folks calling me names is the least of my worries,” he said that day. “There is no ill will or hard feelings … towards you, because again, I didn’t hear it. Quite frankly, it wouldn’t have affected me much if I had.”
“Mr. Thompson blatantly lied,” Yohn told Lannerd Monday. “Under his profession, he should not lie like that. Mr. Thompson stated he did not hear that comment that day. If Mr. Thompson did not hear that comment that day, he would have been surprised when the deputy bailiff (Chad Downs) pulled me back in the courtroom. He would have had the demeanor of, ‘What? Huh? I didn’t hear it.’ Instead, he said, ‘No, just keep him out of the courtroom.’ That pretty much says what Mr. Thompson did here.”
He later said to Henze, “If a judge can lie that easily, I honestly don’t believe he should be in a seat, let along hearing a caseload over that person.”
Jones: ‘Yohn may have a different memory of what occurred in his own little head’
Assistant state’s attorney Josh Jones said to Henze that in his 20 years as a practicing attorney, he never has heard “a complete and utter work of fiction presented as facts.”
He said Thomson offered Yohn the opportunity to continue to proceed pro se four times during the July 21 hearing. He also said he provided reports of the testimony of two U.S. Marshals to Yohn before that day.
“To call a sitting judge a liar without something more is completely inappropriate,” Jones said. “(Yohn) may have a different memory of what occurred in his own little head. He may have twisted the facts such that it’s not what he wants to hear, but that’s what occurred. … What it comes down to is he didn’t get what he wanted from Judge Thomson, and now he’s throwing a temper tantrum.
“Many times in my career, I haven’t gotten what I wanted from a judge. Being a lawyer is recognizing that sometimes you’re not going to win an argument. Being a prosecutor means sometimes you’re not going to get what you want. It doesn’t mean the judge is unfair, and it doesn’t mean the system is unfair. It just means you lost that argument, and you move on.”
After Jones concluded, Yohn made an offer to Henze.
“If anyone, and I mean anyone, can bring that audio to court right now, or tomorrow or next week, and tell me that (Thomson) did not say that, I will take 100 years today for this criminal charge that I did not commit,” he said. “Judge Thomson clearly did say things. I have no reason to make them up.”
Yohn later repeated his offer to “take 100 years,” then eventually added, “These proceedings have become very ridiculous.”
Henze: ‘It’s up to you to prove actual prejudice’
Jones interrupted. “Your honor, this is when I have to object,” he said.
“You had your chance, Mr. Jones,” Yohn said.
“I’m sorry, but I’ll wait for the judge to tell me what I can do,” Jones shot back.
Henze then stepped in to stop the bantering and give her ruling.
“You’re gonna win some, you’re gonna lose some throughout litigation,” she said. “It doesn’t mean the judge is prejudiced against you. It doesn’t mean the judge cannot be fair and impartial.”
As for Yohn’s claims that Thomson lied about whether he heard the derogatory comment, Henze said she found Thomson’s claim to be “credible.”
“The burden is on you to rebut that presumption and overcome the presumption that the judge is going to be fair and impartial,” she said. “It is up to you to prove actual prejudice. If Judge Thompson said he hadn’t heard that, and I believe he didn’t, I believe him. Even if he had heard it, that does not automatically serve as a basis for substitution. I can tell you, we’re all pretty thick-skinned. We’ve all been called a lot of things.”
Henze then asked Yohn if he had questions.
“Just asking how am I to have a fair, impartial trial in this county,” he replied.
“You’re arguing a whole separate motion that would need to be filed and heard by Judge Thomson,” Henze replied.
“Judge Thomson, who also is prejudiced,” Yohn said.
“I’m going to object at this point,” Jones said. “I’m not going to listen to him impugn a member of the judiciary multiple times like he’s done.”
“Object all you want,” Yohn said. “I’m going back to my pod.”
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