Illini basketball

Jaylon Tate’s unfortunate lesson: Do NOT cooperate with police

The Champaign Police Department denied my original FOIA demand for their official Jaylon Tate arrest report on the grounds that the case was ongoing. Thus my initial reporting on People v. Jaylon Tate relied on the willing participation of sources with information. To the best of my, and their, ability; we reported the facts as knew them.

Now that the case is resolved, that police report enters the public domain. It will be all over the interwebs. People will debate its findings. I hope they conclude, as I did, that Jaylon Tate was not in a position, time and place, to batter Hailey Pieruccini.

From the very first moment, I had a hunch that Jaylon Tate didn’t hit anybody. He’s just too amiable.

When Kendrick Nunn was arrested days later, I didn’t feel the same astonishment. We all know that KNunn plays with a chip on his shoulder.

But JTate? He’s everybody’s friend.

It’s that amiable nature that got him arrested.

Tate was in southwest Champaign, and presumably in for the night, when alerted by friends to the police investigation of Hailey Pieruccini’s injuries. He could have turned off his phone and ignored this information.

Instead, Tate made his way back to Campustown, and approached the squad car parked outside West Quad. He told Champaign police officers Justin Prosser and Kevin Olmstead that he didn’t know exactly what they were investigating, but that he’d been told that Pieruccini had been battered.

Olmstead asked Tate if he had a cell phone, and whether he (Olmstead) could see it. Tate complied, and the officers confiscated his phone. (His family had to buy him another one, compounding the thousands of dollars paid by Tate’s family because Jaylon cooperated with police.)

Olmstead found texts to/from Pieruccini  earlier that night. The conversation was incomplete, as Olmstead correctly observed. It began midstream with Hailey saying the police wouldn’t listen to her, Tate asking why she’s lying about him, and a series of texts from Hailey saying she didn’t lie, that she doesn’t know what else to tell the police to convince them, asking why Tate won’t answer her, promising that Tate shouldn’t worry because he didn’t do anything wrong,  and ending with another iteration of “they won’t listen to me.”

“They” is mostly officer William Cowan, who spoke at length with Pieruccini as she held an ice pack to her face, lying on her own bed in her apartment off Scott Park, an eight minute walk from West Quad.

She tells Cowan that Tate did not hit her. She continually demurs from attempts by Cowan to incriminate Tate. Likewise, she demurs from Cowan’s repeated insistence that she accept medical assistance. She does, according to Cowan, say that she and Tate argued that night.

Every officer involved in the investigation questions Tate/Pieruccini friends (not necessarily witnesses) about the concept of a “dating relationship” and the “exclusivity” of any ostensible “relationship” between Tate and Pieruccini. These terms are important to the officers because they need to establish a “dating relationship” to arrest Tate without a  warrant. Any offense other than domestic battery and Tate could bond out before seeing a judge. To keep him for more than an hour or so, they must charge this particular offense.

The answers police receive are consistent. Nobody regards Tate and Pieruccini as boyfriend and girlfriend. Some speculate that they have some kind of non-exclusive relationship. Crucially, Tate offers the information that he and Pieruccini have, on occasion, done the deed — but not since late February.

Given these answers, and the texts flowing between the accused and the purported victim, it’s understandable that Champaign police chose to arrest Tate. They’d established that there was some sort of connection between the two, that Tate was upset with Pieruccini, and that Pieruccini had been injured. In a classic example of domestic violence policing, Champaign police decided to lock Tate away for the night.

Ethically, morally, legally, the police are on firm ground here. What’s sketchier is what happens toward the end of the conversation between Cowan and Pieruccini. He continues to pressure her to accept medical treatment. She expresses concern about her family’s financial situation, and the exorbitant expense of an ambulance bill.

Cowan regards Pieruccini as conscious and alert (albeit intoxicated) and describes her injuries as a busted/swollen lip and swelling on the left side of her face. Perhaps he was concerned for her overall health, and worried more than she about superficial scrapes. Subsequent events suggest a different motive.

At some point during the interrogation, first-year softball coach Tyra Perry arrives at the apartment. She convinces Pieruccini to accept medical attention. PRO Ambulance is dispatched.

When PRO Ambulance EMTs arrive, Cowan and Olmstead (who arrived after Cowan, but before assisting Prosser in interrogating Tate) position themselves just outside Pieruccini’s door, and eavesdrop on her consultation.

Police, as an institution, are aware that injured persons are more likely to share information with medical personnel than police. Some people don’t trust police. Some people don’t like police. But all people, as a rule, want their doctors to know what’s wrong with them.

It’s this reasoning that informs Federal and Illinois case law, which have specific rulings about victim statements to medical personnel, and their admissibility in court proceedings. If Pieruccini had uttered the name “Jaylon Tate” to those EMTs, it would not have been admissible as evidence.  She didn’t. She said “he” hit her. No name.

Pieruccini never wanted to talk to police, but what could she do? Her roommate, Nicole Evans, invited them into their home.

Upon her release from Carle Hospital, Cowan returns to Pieruccini’s apartment to have her sign a Consent to Release Medical Records and Information form. She gets the “Hailey” part in legible script, but the “Pieruccini” part is indecipherable. Similarly, her hand-written birth date drifts downward, below the signature line. She dates the document with a 7 in the month spot, before writing a 3 over it.  It’s after 5 a.m. at this point, and she’s still drunk.

Nicole Evans is not to blame. She was looking out for a friend. Hailey Pieruccini is not to blame. Most 19 year-olds discover, at some point, that excessive alcohol consumption produces bad outcomes. It’s a lesson people will only need to learn once, if they’re fortunate.

Tyra Perry is somewhat to blame. Was she covering her ass? Was she concerned with Pieruccini’s health? Was she the atypical black woman who doesn’t recognize that police aren’t always looking out for the best interests of citizens? Why did she not drive Pieruccini to the hospital herself?

I reached out to Coach Perry, to see if she cared to clarify her purposes. I’ll update this paragraph if I get a response.

Given the multitude of rules, requirements and expectations piled upon NCAA coaches, I can ‘t fault Perry’s actions. She certainly didn’t make the worst decision of the night. But in the end, Tim Beckman’s inglorious tenure ensured her unfounded insistence that Pieruccini needed professional medical oversight.

I emailed Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz for comment on the dismissal of People v. Tate, and particularly for clarification on her statement regarding the dismissal, which Tate’s attorney (and I) regarded as a tacit suggestion that Tate was guilty.

In response to my query, she dialed back that tone:

Haley had injuries to her face consistent with being punched. We believe she made the statements to her friends that they reported to the police. We cannot prove who caused those injuries in a court of law. I do not know who punched her.

Rietz won her position after predecessor John Piland failed to prosecute Luther Head et al for burglary. The victim was not cooperative in that case, too, but for different reasons.

Pretty much everyone involved in this case is a victim. Jaylon Tate and Hailey Pieruccini got their reputations sullied and their families in debt. The State’s Attorney’s office generated consternation for its handling of the case

The Champaign Police will forever be questioned for their motives, and  for not investigating any other suspects (whether that’s fair or not). And by arresting and detaining a cooperative individual, they’ve reinforced a terrible lesson: Cooperating with police is bad for you.



Illini basketball

Subpoenas returned, evidence erased – The Jaylon Tate Saga

In the previous installment of The Jaylon Tate Saga, you learned that Champaign County Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Hall subpoenaed PRO Ambulance for information about their treatment and transport of Hailey Pieruccini, in the wee small hours of March 12.


Hall received written records from PRO Ambulance, but not video.  Those documents were shared with Tate’s defense team this week. They contain no new information.


In April, Evan Bruno subpoenaed both Pieruccini and André Lee for all communications exchanged between them during the month of March.  Lee deleted his text messages with Pieruccini for the entire month of March. Pieruccini deleted her text messages with Lee from the morning of March 11 onward. The surviving text messages between Pieruccini and Lee come from Pieruccini ‘s phone, with the latest being from the morning of March 11. Lee signed an affidavit stating that he was no longer in possession of any of the requested communications between himself and Pieruccini.

On the night of March 11, softball teammate Carly Thomas refused to allow Pieruccini to drink while Pieruccini was in Thomas’s apartment, not because Pieruccini is underage, but because Pieruccini was already intoxicated.  Pieruccini  split away from her teammates after that. Jade Vecvanags spent most of the day with Pieruccini, but followed through on their plan to attend a party at the football house (across the street from the Beer Barn and down the block from West Quad). Pieruccini instead veered toward West Quad.  Danielle Trezzo accompanied her there, but then departed without her.


Both the football house and West Quad are frequent gathering places for UIUC student-athletes.


Witnesses attending the party at the West Quad apartment shared by Tate and Tracy Abrams described Pieruccini  as “belligerently drunk.”  Conversely, Pieruccini reportedly walked upstairs to Tate’s bedroom, and reclined on his bed until her friends rousted her. Tate remained downstairs among the party’s attendees. After about half an hour, Abrams asked Pieruccini to leave.


Video surveillance footage, already admitted into evidence, shows Pieruccini leaving West Quad alone.


At some point after leaving Tate and Abrams’s apartment, Pieruccini suffered injuries to her face. Did she trip and fall down? Did she stumble into a tree? Did someone punch her?


You can see why Pieruccini would be embarrassed. She’d already been abandoned by her friends, kicked out of one party and refused alcohol at another. If she had stumbled into a tree, would she risk further social ostracization by admitting as much to her peers?


Instead, she attributes her injuries to an unnamed male figure. She doesn’t name person x.  She refuses to cooperate with police. When they arrest Jaylon Tate, she emails Tom Bruno to admit she’s responsible for her injuries.


The state has a single witness, Kate Giddens, who will be able to testify that Pieruccini used the words “Jaylon Tate” to characterize the cause of her injuries. Giddens said Pieruccini claimed she was punched three times, and indicated three spots on her face. Pieruccini  told PRO Ambulance that “he” (unnamed person x) hit her once.


If the state continues to trial, it’s easy to see at least three credible alternative theories to explain Pieruccini’s injuries. What’s difficult to see is how, when or where Jaylon Tate had the opportunity to punch her.
Illini football

Illini football graduates 24 this weekend, 42 this academic year

For the last four years, encountering Mason Monheim was risky. You might lose a tooth trying to scamper past the hard-hitting linebacker. But in the future, you’ll want to see Doctor Monheim for your dental problems.

This weekend, Monheim will earn a degree in Community Health, and then it’s off to dental school at Ohio State.  Thursday, the Big Ten Conference awarded him a $7,500 scholarship toward that degree.

Two student-athletes from each B1G school received the $7,500 postgraduate scholarship awards from the conference. Recipients maintained a minimum 3.2 grade-point-average, “demonstrated leadership qualities, served as an excellent role model and intended to continue their academic work beyond their baccalaureate degree at a graduate degree program.”

Swimmer Stephanie Hein is Illinois’ other recipient. She’ll pursue a Master’s degree in Teaching & Learning at the University of Michigan, with a focus in STEM Education.

All-in-all, 119 Illini athletes will walk this weekend. 24 of them are football players, former and current. When including last December and this coming August’s commencement ceremonies, 42 football players will have matriculated with a degree or two.

Illini Football Graduation Facts

• 42 football players will earn degrees in 2015-16

• 10 of the 42 are on the current 2016 roster, meaning they’ll already have degrees when they play in 2016

• 9 of the 42 earned a master’s degree or second bachelor’s degree

• 3 of the 42 played pro ball and came back to finish their degrees
» Michael Hoomanawanui (Illinois 2006-09) – current New Orleans Saint
» Kyle Hudson (Illinois 2005-08) – Illini dual-sport star and former Baltimore Oriole
» Corey Liuget (Illinois 2008-10) – current San Diego Charger

• All 6 new Illini in the NFL will have at least one degree
» Geronimo Allison (Packers)
» V’Angelo Bentley (Patriots)
» Josh Ferguson (Colts)
» Clayton Fejedelem (Bengals)
» Ted Karras (Patriots)
» Jihad Ward (Raiders)

• In the last two years, 80 football players have earned degrees
» 42 in 2015-16
» 38 in 2014-15

• Football degrees by year (since 2012)
» 2012 – 15
» 2013 – 16
» 2014 – 21
» 2015 – 38
» 2016 – 42

2015-16 Illinois Football Graduates

December 2015 (7)
Name Major
Geronimo Allison Communication
Rob Bain Communication
Martize Barr Communication
Josh Ferguson Kinesiology
Eric Finney Human Development & Family Studies
Michael Martin Mechanical Engineering
Cameron Tucker Political Science
May 2016 (24)
Name Major
Taylor Barton Communication
B.J. Bello Community Health
Jesse Chadwell Communication
Ryan Frain Kinesiology
Justin Hardee Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Zach Hirth Kinesiology
Michael Hoomanawanui Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Kyle Hudson Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Ted Karras Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Jevaris Little Sociology
Corey Liuget Sociology
Nelson Lugo Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Wes Lunt Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Mason Monheim Community Health
T.J. Neal Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Chris O’Connor Agricultural Leadership & Education (2nd degree)
Leslie Poole Accountancy (Master’s)
David Reisner Advertising
Joe Spencer Finance
Tyrin Stone-Davis Communication
Mike Svetina Finance
LaKeith Walls Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Sean White Civil Engineering
Taylor Zalewski Technology Management (Master’s)
August 2016 (11)
Name Major
Raphael Barr Communication
V’Angelo Bentley Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Tim Clary Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Cedric Doxy Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Henry Enyenihi Communication
Joe Fotu Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Davontay Kwaaning Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Marchie Murdock Communication
Kenny Nelson Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Teko Powell Sociology
Jihad Ward Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Illini basketball

Jaylon Tate – The “PRO Ambulance subpoena”

Last Friday’s evidentiary motions hearing featured a back-and-forth between Judge John Kennedy and Assistant States’ Attorney Stephanie Hall concerning a “PRO Ambulance” subpoena. It seems Hall wants evidence from the company that transported Hailey Pieruccini to Carle Hospital. So far, she doesn’t have it.

Is the state’s attorney’s office seeking on-board camera evidence?  Hoping that such a video (assuming it exists) will produce a decisive statement from Pieruccini? Is the state seeking to compel PRO Ambulance’s EMTs  to testify about what they remember from that night?

A video would be the state’s best evidence to date. Testimony from medical personnel regarding statements made to them by injured persons can be used to determine how a person was injured, but not who injured them (except in child sex abuse cases). Consequently, electronic evidence of Pieruccini speaking Tate’s name would be a precious find for the prosecution.

But why would it be? The very first reporting on the Tate case quoted Champaign Police Sgt. Bruce Ramseyer’s proclamation that Pieruccini told police Tate hit her, and an admission that she had some sort of relationship with Tate. If that’s true, why would a recording from PRO Ambulance be necessary?

This is where two questions arise regarding Pieruccini’s statement to police

  1. Did she, in fact, use Tate’s name?
  2. Was her statement recorded audio-visually?

Judge Kennedy was adamant and animated in ruling that Tate’s name could not be inferred or implied from a Pieruccini statement supposedly made to Andre Lee. And while Lee’s statement was admitted in part, it’s of little value in the case against Tate, because Pieruccini never used Tate’s name to Lee. The suggestion that Jaylon Tate hit Pieruccini originated, it seems, with Lee.

Nicole Evans’s statement was ruled inadmissible, but would have been similarly useless. Once again, it was not Pieruccini who named Tate. It was Evans.

Kate Giddens’s statement identifies Jaylon, and the implication is that Pieruccini spoke that name to Giddens. Giddens arrives on the scene after the Tate theory has been introduced by Lee, but that doesn’t matter for evidentiary purposes. Her account has been deemed admissible. The next question is whether she will show up at trial to produce a substantially similar story to the prosecution’s proffer.

But what exactly was proferred? Did Giddens identify a culprit by his full name? If Giddens can’t specifically recall Pieruccini saying “Jaylon Tate” but only “Jaylon,” her testimony is less valuable. Evans, when presented with the story, thought Giddens was talking about an entirely different person named “Jayelin.”

Why did Pieruccini go to Lee’s place, anyhow? Is it because they are friends? Lovers? Or was he simply the closest nearby in her time of need? Did she call others first, only to get voicemail?

The person first identified in these pages as “C” was, according to sources, the person who punched Hailey Pieruccini and escorted her home. Further evidence demonstrated that C did not escort Pieruccini home.

C did make a statement to police. C was in Pieruccini’s company before Pieruccini decided to attend the party at Tate’s apartment. C was not pleased with Pieruccini’s level of intoxication. What no one knows is whether C’s annoyance rose to the level of a violent outburst.

If C punched Pieruccini, it’s not inconceivable that Pieruccini would seek shelter at Lee’s apartment rather than walking the four blocks to her own. Lee’s apartment is a one minute walk from C’s, if one cuts through the yards and alleys between them. Pieruccini’s place is four-tenths of a mile from C’s (and Lee’s) apartment. Walking there would have required Pieruccini to navigate a gauntlet of drunk revelers, while still bleeding from the face.

(Another curious aspect about these distances was Stephanie Hall’s answer to Kennedy’s query “how long did it take” for Giddens to drive Pieruccini home from Lee’s apartment?  Hall said “ten minutes.” The distance is 5 1/2 blocks. There’s one left turn, and one busy street to cross.)

It’s still possible that C did the punching. C has not been identified in any published accounts of the Tate case, but C’s apartment is in the direction Pieruccini seemed to be headed when she departed West Quad, the massive complex which houses most of the Illini basketball team.

PRO Ambulance is a key figure in People v Jaylon Tate because Pieruccini consistently declined to identify Tate to police, from the outset of their investigation. Evan Bruno told the News-Gazette he rejected the state’s characterization of Pieruccini as uncooperative. She spoke freely with police, but continually told them and her roommates that she just wanted to go to sleep, that her injuries were her own fault, that she didn’t want medical treatment, that she just wanted the whole brouhaha to go away.

So why did police keep pushing her to seek treatment? And why are prosecutors now seeking evidence that arose as a result of that treatment?

Perhaps Champaign Police prodded Pieruccini to accept medical treatment simply out of concern for her health. But it’s not inconceivable that they had an ulterior motive.

People tell their doctors things they won’t tell anyone else. When the EMTs arrived, you can rest assured the police were listening to what Pieruccini told them.

We can infer answers to the two questions posed above, based on the state’s seeking the PRO Ambulance subpoena.

  1. Maybe Pieruccini did say Jaylon Tate’s name to investigating officers. Maybe she merely assented to the suggestion of Tate’s name, as she did to Evans. Maybe she said only “he” as she did to Lee

but whichever the case

2. CPD must not have an audio-visual capture of the moment.

If the best evidence the CPD can provide is a police officer’s hearsay testimony (admissible because police reports are regularly recorded in the standard operating procedure of police business) a reasonable jury might wonder why no A/V evidence is offered to support the narrative. CPD interviewed a number of witnesses to the night’s events, and some of those interviews were recorded audio-visually.

How many of those recordings feature people saying “nope, I was with Jaylon all night” and “she was fine when she left” etc. A few?

And how many of them feature people saying “Jaylon Tate hit me” or “she said Jaylon Tate hit her” and similar. Zero?

Tate’s defense team would be wise to draw attention to that incongruity.