Illini basketball

Surveillance video will clear Jaylon Tate

Last month’s column, regarding the delay in dismissing charges against Jaylon Tate, relied on a critical piece of information: Two sources indicated that N (the primary witness and only person regarded as having no direct knowledge of events) had been persuaded to meet with state’s attorney Julia Rietz, on or about the day that first column published.  The implication was that N would change or clarify her statement.

Saturday’s News-Gazette‘s update on the case revealed N to be Nicole Evans. Consequently, Illini Report will move forward using the real names of all involved.

Evans’s statement could not be dispositive, because she had no direct knowledge of events. But certain aspects of her statement were thought to be crucial in determining the overall chain of events, and especially the timeline.

More importantly, the C from that first story no longer stands for “culpable,” but rather “composite.” It’s two people, not one. The person who arrived at the apartment shared by Evans and Hailey Pieruccini (the victim) was Kate Giddens.  The person who was alone with Pieruccini between the party and her bloodied arrival was Illini wrestler Andre Lee.

The News-Gazette story features a quizzical line, reported as hearsay from Pieruccini: “She also told Giddens that Tate was upset with her for being at Lee’s apartment.”  This is the key line from the story.

The timeline, which no one disputes, is this:

  • Tate’s apartment
  • Lee’s apartment
  • Pieruccini & Evans’s apartment

The disputed aspect is when Pieruccini was battered (and of course, by whom).

A key piece of electronic evidence in this series of events is the West Quad surveillance video that shows Pieruccini leaving Tate’s apartment, by herself, in the direction of Lee’s apartment. The video shows Pieruccini walking away while making a phone call at 11:24 p.m.  Video quality, according to sources, is not sufficiently clear to demonstrably show that Pieruccini was uninjured at 11:24 p.m.

The same surveillance video later shows Tate and three friends hanging around outside the apartment, and eventually climbing into an Uber ride to the Red Lion. According to multiple sources, the Uber car arrived/departed West Quad after all Pieruccini-oriented events had completed. i.e. Pieruccini had left the party and arrived at home, battered, before Tate and friends left West Quad for the Red Lion.

So, back to the key line from the News-Gazette story. “She also told Giddens that Tate was upset with her for being at Lee’s apartment.”

Why would Tate be upset that the victim was at Lee’s apartment before she went to Lee’s apartment?

Or did Giddens conflate who with whom? That’s understandable, because the victim was both intoxicated and possibly concussed.

For Jaylon Tate’s purposes, the combination of testimonial & electronic evidence should be enough to win a verdict, but is it enough to force a dismissal of charges?

The testimonial evidence will show not only that Tate was never alone with the victim, but that Tate was never alone. Multiple witnesses, including basketball teammates, attended the West Quad gathering. Three of those people accompanied Tate to the Red Lion in an Uber car. If Tate punched Hailey Pieruccini, a lot of people saw it.

So far, there’s only one acknowledged eyewitness to the battery, and she’s adamant that Tate did not punch her. That’s Hailey Pieruccini.

Champaign Police confiscated Tate’s phone. Any correspondence between Tate and Pieruccini might be used to indicate a “dating relationship,” some degree of friendship, or even a state of enmity between them. Tate’s attorneys have subpoenaed Pieruccini’s phone records to demonstrate communications between Pieruccini and Lee.

It’s by no means impossible that an unknown,  unnamed person is also a subject of interest. The original source for Part 1 regarded C as a single person, not a composite. It’s possible that the original C is responsible for the battery, but did not accompany the victim to her apartment.

But that trail has gone cold. it’s clear where Tate’s defense team is focused now.

Without dispositive evidence, the state’s attorney is not required to dismiss the case against Tate. But while Pieruccini will not incriminate Tate, she’s also remained steadfast in her determination against incriminating anyone. That’s the impetus for Saturday’s News-Gazette article. The state’s attorney is seeking Pieruccini’s testimony from other people, because Pieruccini refuses to provide it.

Their respective motives remain among the most intriguing aspects of this story. The perplexing question from Part 1 remains: Why and how did Champaign Police never consider the possibility that “C” was the batterer? Unfortunately, while their machinations play out, Jaylon Tate continues to twist in the wind.