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.
LOOKING BACK: EVENTS OF THE NIGHT IN QUESTION
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.
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
Did she, in fact, use Tate’s name?
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.
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.
On Friday, Champaign County Judge John Kennedy allowed the prosecution’s motion in limine admitting hearsay testimony from Illini wrestler André Lee and softball player Kate Giddens, and denied the state’s motion to admit hearsay from Hailey Pieruccini’s roommate Nicole Evans.
That’s good news for Jaylon Tate because it means his case will go to trial. Only a trial can legally vindicate Tate. Had the motions been denied in full, the case would likely be dismissed for lack of evidence. A dismissal doesn’t say “not guilty” the way a verdict does.
The hearsay testimony, when and if provided by Lee and Giddens, must match the state’s profer (description & characterization of their words) to be deemed admissible under Friday’s ruling.
Lee would be well-advised against testifying, to avoid opening himself to cross-examination. Team Bruno will almost certainly seek to explore the theory that Lee punched Pieruccini. Lee’s own testimony demonstrates that he was alone with the victim between the time she was last seen uninjured and the time she arrived at her apartment, battered. Furthermore, it seems that Lee is already uncooperative. A brief bit of dialog between Kennedy and attorney Evan Bruno suggested that Lee’s phone is no longer expected to be introduced as a defense exhibit, or as one person phrased it “André’s phone has magically become unavailable.”
The implication is that Bruno would use data from Lee’s phone to show that Lee and Pieruccini are involved in a relationship. Bruno would likely suggest that Lee was angry with Pieruccini for attending a party at Tate’s apartment.
Judge Kennedy grilled Champaign County assistant state’s attorney Stephanie Hall about the profer regarding Lee’s testimony. Hall sought to introduce a line in which Lee says Pieruccini told him, over the phone & presumably while walking toward his apartment, that her boyfriend had punched her. Kennedy was adamant that Lee could not, as a matter of law more so than a matter of fact, know who was being characterized by that statement.
Hall did not describe Tate as the victim’s “boyfriend’ but instead said that the two had had a “sexual relationship,” popularly known as a Friends with Benefits situation.
Hall cited People v. Enoch [545 N.E.2d 429 (1989)] and People v. House [566 N.E.2d 259 (1990)] as precedents favoring the introduction of “excited utterance” hearsay in Illinois.
The state needs this hearsay evidence because it doesn’t have any other evidence which would indicate that Jaylon Tate punched Hailey Pieruccini. Bruno pointed out that Pieruccini has not vacillated from her account of events, which is that Jaylon Tate did not hit her.
Bruno offered for submission into evidence a surveillance video showing the sidewalk & street outside West Quad, Tate’s apartment building. Hall objected and was overruled, Kennedy finding that Bruno’s offer of the video was relevant to the state’s motion in limine. Kennedy then left the bench to sit in front of a big screen TV, and watch the video via Windows Media Player. After admitting it into evidence, Kennedy asked whether Bruno had a DVD copy of the video. Bruno said he had the video on a flash drive, which he then held in the air. Kennedy asked whether he should know what a flash drive is. Bruno replied that he would make a DVD for the court. Sotto voce chuckling briefly ensued.
Much of the audience got up from the gallery, and walked the five or six paces to the right side of the room, to better see the big screen. Not much happened in the video, but Kennedy asked Bruno to pause it twice. At the first pause Kennedy asked if it were the defense’s contention that a particular figure seen in the video was Pieruccini. Bruno affirmed. Kennedy asked Hall whether the people disagreed with that contention. Hall said no.
That means the video evidence is in, establishing that Pieruccini left West Quad at 11:24 p.m. That’s more than half an hour before any other events in the case.
Kennedy also accepted Bruno’s profer of six affidavits from witnesses who will testify that they were in Jaylon Tate’s presence throughout the evening, and that all six witnessed no violence at any time. One of those witnesses, Brandon Edwards, attended the proceeding with the Tate family. Edwards was the person sitting closest to the door of Tate’s apartment when a drunk Pieruccini departed, according to his testimony, unscathed.
Kennedy adjourned the hearings with the announcement that the trial date in People v Jaylon Tate is set for June 7. Bruno, Tate, Tate’s mother Arisa Johnson, grandmother Bonnie Johnson, uncle Steven Johnson, sister Joryin and Edwards then convened in the front hall of the Champaign County Courthouse, and addressed the media.