Yohn upset after motion denied, storms out of courtroom; trial set to begin Nov. 14

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QUINCY — After debating with Judge Roger Thomson about the start date of his jury trial in November, a frustrated Bradley Yohn abruptly stormed out of an Adams County courtroom Wednesday morning with help from several bailiffs and court security personnel.

Yohn, a Springfield man charged with four Class X felonies in Adams County in connection with a Nov. 9, 2021 sexual assault, was in Adams County Circuit Court for an omnibus hearing — a pretrial hearing to determine what issues remain in a case or need to be litigated and determined before a criminal trial begins.

As the hearing drew to a close, Thomson asked assistant state’s attorney Josh Jones if he was prepared to proceed to trial on Nov. 7. Jones said he was, but he asked for Thomson to push the start of the trial to Nov. 14 during the second week of the two-week trial docket. He said one of his witnesses is unavailable during the first week of the trial docket.

Thomson then asked if Yohn, who is defending himself, would be ready for trial on Nov. 14.

“I will ask for a continuance of an oral motion to the next docket to secure some items I have recently requested,” Yohn replied. “I’m going to need a little bit more time to formulate the rest of this defense. I shant have to, but since the state has abused discoveries, I will need a bit more time.”

Judge Roger Thomson speaks with Bradley Yohn during Wednesday morning’s hearing in Adams County Circuit Court. | David Adam

Thomson quickly denied Yohn’s request for the continuance. 

“We’re giving you an additional week by starting the second week of jury trials,” Thomson said.

Yohn tried to ask why Thomson denied the motion, but the judge cut him off.

“You can file a motion, setting forth the reasons why you’re not going to be ready for the pretrial date (on Oct. 28),” Thomson said.

“I object to the continuance on the state’s behalf if the defendant, as a pro se inmate, cannot get a continuance, too,” Yohn replied. “If an uneducated man in this area of expertise cannot get a continuance to secure the formulation of a trial, then the state shall not have the benefit of continuing, either.”

Thomson told Yohn he scheduled for the trial to begin Nov. 14.

“Once again, a biased opinion,” Yohn said.

“Mr. Yohn, do not interrupt me, or you will be removed from the courtroom,” Thomson said.

“I’m ready to go, your honor,” Yohn replied.

“Go,” Thomson said as he pointed toward the door leading to the jail.

As he was led out of the courtroom, Yohn said, “You don’t need all of that security.”

The first part of Wednesday’s hearing was to address a petition filed by public defender Todd Nelson, appointed last month by Thomson as standby counsel for Yohn. Nelson wanted specific parameters of his role to be determined.

“Standby counsel could be a very broad role,” Nelson said to Thomson. “(There could be) many different responsibilities. I’m just asking for clarification as to exactly what my responsibilities are.”

Yohn told Thomson during a Sept. 22 hearing he wanted standby counsel to visit with him, help form a defense and educate him on certain matters he had questions about. 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.

However, when Thomson asked Wednesday if that was how Yohn continued to perceive Nelson’s role, Yohn said no.

“I’m going to have to retract that information I gave to the court last time,” he said. “I will object to the court setting any parameters for the role of standby counsel. As I’m looking through a couple cases, the right under the Constitution obviously states that as a pro se defendant, I have the right to stand-by counsel.”

“Incorrect,” Thomson said. “You have no right to standby counsel. You have the right to counsel. We need to set the parameters for Mr. Nelson.”

Yohn eventually said he wants Nelson at his trial to assist in trial objections and give information during the trial. He asked that Nelson be seated alongside him during the trial.

Public defender Todd Nelson stands to speak with Judge Roger Thomson during a hearing Wednesday morning in Adams County Circuit Court. Seated at the table at right is Bradley Yohn, who is defending himself in the case. Seated at the table at left are assistant state’s attorneys Laura Keck, left, and Josh Jones. Seated in the background is assistant state’s attorney Todd Eyler. | David Adam

Nelson said he understood when he needs to be present in the courtroom. 

“I guess I’m still wondering: Are there any parameters for my responsibilities in the work I should be doing for Mr. Yohn?” he asked.

“My understanding is you would be assisting him with legal questions that he brings to you, and you answer to the best of your abilities,” Thomson replied. “I’m not asking you to write his will or anything like that.”

Thomson then briefly cleared the courtroom to discuss evidence “which may or may not be admissible at trial,” he said.

Yohn, 35, is defending himself against charges of 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 is being held in the Adams County Jail on a $15 million bond, believed to be the largest ever set in Adams County.

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