Categories
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.

 

 

Categories
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.

Categories
Illini basketball

Exonerating Jaylon Tate: Why the delay?

UPDATE: Surveillance video will clear Jaylon Tate 

I have a theory about the Jaylon Tate case. Specifically, I have a theory about its continued existence.

I assume the state’s attorney’s office, U of I and Champaign police departments have not dropped the case because doing so would start the clock on release of FOIA materials. As long as formal charges are pending, those materials remain privileged.

All three of those agencies have an interest in keeping Jaylon Tate’s police reports secret, for two reasons.

The main reason should be obvious: law enforcement is still investigating the case, whether in hopes of charging the real perpetrator, or to bring obstruction/false statements charges. The other reason is Kendrick Nunn’s arrest on similar charges, and how the Tate case might affect that investigation.

That’s speculation. Now, here are some facts: The victim was hit in the face, yes. Jaylon Tate didn’t do it. The victim did not want Jaylon Tate arrested.

Did she falsely claim that she had a relationship with Jaylon Tate? Probably not. We’d want to know the specifics: What exactly were the questions, and what precisely were her answers?  They were never boyfriend and girlfriend, but as you’ll see below, Illinois law is murky, giving cops great leeway to charge domestic battery. In fact, because this particular Illinois statute gives cops an option to arrest without a warrant, it tacitly encourages them to make inferences about relationships.

All of that should be in the police report, which will be publicly available at some point.

Complicating the matter is the fact that the victim also didn’t want, and likely continues not to want the culpable party arrested. We’ll call that person C, for culpable.

The person who seems to have done the most communicating with the police is neither the victim nor C, but is closely acquainted with both of them. Perhaps she didn’t know she was giving false statements to the police. Perhaps she was merely naïve. We’ll call her N, for naïve.

Here’s what happened: The victim arrived at N’s apartment late at night. N saw the the victim had been injured, and naturally wanted to know what happened, to see justice served, etc.

To be clear, the preceding paragraph is not speculation. It’s not my theory. It’s fact.

Although I’m speculating about the mindset of the persons involved, and the state’s attorney’s delay in exonerating Jaylon Tate;  I am not speculating about who punched the victim, nor who reported it to the police.

Now, let’s jump back in time. Earlier that night, as has been well documented publicly, two girls were asked to leave a party.  One of those girls was the victim. Reports have already told you Tate was at the party.

So you can infer that Tate was a subject of discussion with those two girls. N was not one of these two girls. She enters the story only after the victim got hit in the face.

Add

  • alcohol
  • the very late hour
  • the fact that the victim didn’t want to talk about what happened

and you can see why N was confused.

Much more important, however, is whether C was standing in the room while N demanded to know what happened. Did the victim tell N that Jaylon Tate punched her? Did C tell N that Tate was the perpetrator? Did neither the victim, nor C tell N that Jaylon Tate did it, only to have N conclude it was Jaylon after hearing a separate (and let’s assume hazily told) story of Tate telling them to leave the party?

(For what it’s worth, Tate was not — per any source queried on this question — the person that asked the girls to leave the party.)

Why would the victim cover for C?  Perhaps it’s due to the chronic psychological condition which, in the old days, people called Battered Wives Syndrome. Now it’s been redefined as battered person syndrome, which is a lot more inclusive but sounds far less chilling.

It’s also possible that the victim simply felt as if she’d gotten the worse of a fight for which she was equally responsible, and didn’t feel it was right to press charges. Maybe that’s fair. It certainly doesn’t fall outside the parameters of BPS.

Does theory one suggest the victim and C were/are involved in a relationship of some description? Yes, it does, especially in the loosely defined sense contemplated by Illinois law, cited below.

N may or may not have known about this relationship. And if you’ve ever been a teenager in love, lust or infatuation, you can imagine how the victim felt about it. Does C really like me? Are we “officially” going out?

 

Talking to one player’s family this year, I remember a particular colloquy about modern dating: “They’ve been going out for 8 months, and (student-athlete) still doesn’t call (seemingly significant other) his girlfriend.”

Maybe C hit the victim out of jealousy, specifically because the victim wanted to attend a party at Jaylon Tate’s place.  How would the victim respond, emotionally? Wow, C really cares about me! I should not have goaded C this way. Something along those lines sounds depressingly familiar.

All of this would be irrelevant except that the victim surely perceived something dire in the line of questioning from the cops. Can we assume that a kind, calm police officer explained to the victim — perhaps in the immediate presence of C and N — that a charge of domestic battery would  remove of the perpetrator and/or require mandatory jail custody?

Illinois is not among the states that requires police to remove abusive husbands from any home investigated for a domestic disturbance. But Illinois specifically allows sworn officers to arrest suspected domestic offenders without a warrant.

(750 ILCS 60/Art. III heading)

ARTICLE III LAW ENFORCEMENT RESPONSIBILITIES (750 ILCS 60/301) (from Ch. 40, par. 2313-1)

Sec. 301. Arrest without warrant. (a) Any law enforcement officer may make an arrest without warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed or is committing any crime, including but not limited to violation of an order of protection, under Section 12-3.4 or 12-30 of the Criminal Code of 1961 or the Criminal Code of 2012, even if the crime was not committed in the presence of the officer.

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 comes under the heading FAMILIES. But the text includes language which broadens its scope dramatically.The victim did know Jaylon Tate, yes. Do they have, or did they ever have the type of relationship that might spawn a charge of domestic battery under Illinois law?

(6) “Family or household members” include spouses, former spouses, parents, children, stepchildren and other persons related by blood or by present or prior marriage, persons who share or formerly shared a common dwelling, persons who have or allegedly have a child in common, persons who share or allegedly share a blood relationship through a child, persons who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship, persons with disabilities and their personal assistants, and caregivers as defined in Section 12-4.4a of the Criminal Code of 2012. For purposes of this paragraph, neither a casual acquaintanceship nor ordinary fraternization between 2 individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute a dating relationship. In the case of a high-risk adult with disabilities, “family or household members” includes any person who has the responsibility for a high-risk adult as a result of a family relationship or who has assumed responsibility for all or a portion of the care of a high-risk adult with disabilities voluntarily, or by express or implied contract, or by court order.

Tate’s attorney Tom Bruno explained over the phone that he and I don’t have a dating relationship, because we’ve never had lunch together. But he asked rhetorically whether, if we’d had lunch three times, that might constitute a dating relationship?

Whatever benefits her friendship with Tate entailed, they did not include dinner and movies. All Illinois student-athletes eat lunch together at Memorial Stadium. Do they all have a dating relationship? Michael Finke and Leron Black slept in the same room for an entire year. Do they have a dating relationship?

I’m excluding at least three crucial details from this report. The most obvious is the victim’s name. Why? BECAUSE SHE’S THE VICTIM. She doesn’t deserve this article — or any story relating to this saga — to be a top search hit for future Googlers. Let that honor remain with stories of academic awards & accomplishments in the classroom.

The second detail might shed let light on why N was naïve, or why the victim chose reticence. It will become public if she wants it public. But it doesn’t bear any relationship to Jaylon Tate’s innocence, except perhaps to further cement it.

The third detail, like the second, involves the personal lives of young people. Attendees of Illini games appear, by and large, to be persons who grew up watching Ozzie & Harriett (and not in re-runs). Many were children in the Golden Age of Radio. They’re living in the age of Tinder, but they probably don’t know it.  So I’m going to follow the example of Rule 403, perhaps the most famous (among lawyers) of the Federal Rules of Evidence.

I hope the victim is getting a lot of support and unconditional love from her family right now. She’s going through some difficult stuff.

THE BIGGEST QUESTION REMAINS

Returning to square one: Why was Jaylon Tate arrested? Did he have bruised knuckles?

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 is not as stringent as state laws that require separation of domestic partners, but the arrest was clearly made in that spirit. The goal, as stated in the article linked above, is to allow a cooling off period, so the man doesn’t batter his wife to death in retaliation for calling the cops to their house.

But Jaylon Tate doesn’t share a house with the victim. He was not present. He was at a party, and later at a bar, in both cases among plenty of witnesses. He was not a threat to the victim.

Tate is famously friendly and good-natured.  Along with Mike LaTulip, he’s the calming influence among his teammates and larger social group. In the Word Association game I played with the team two years ago, plenty of personality types were presented. Tate was chosen by his peers as Jokester and Playful. Not all the categories were so friendly.

But he’s a black man.

It’s fair to ask, even if you detest Jesse Jackson, would a white girl have gone to jail that night, assuming all other facts being equal?

C, on the other hand, was not arrested. Was C questioned? Did C have bruised knuckles? Why were the police so uninterested in C?

The University of Illinois is focused like a laser on this topic. They brought in the Vice President of the United States to address it. Is that heightened scrutiny to blame for Jaylon Tate’s arrest?

Last week, I emailed  state’s attorney Julia Rietz asking “Will there be any investigation of the arresting officers? Any disciplinary action?”

The 1986 law requires

(750 ILCS 60/301.1) (from Ch. 40, par. 2313-1.1)

Sec. 301.1. Law enforcement policies. Every law enforcement agency shall develop, adopt, and implement written policies regarding arrest procedures for domestic violence incidents consistent with the provisions of this Act. In developing these policies, each law enforcement agency is encouraged to consult with community organizations and other law enforcement agencies with expertise in recognizing and handling domestic violence incidents.

Rietz has been responsive to such inquires in the past, and I believe she is dedicated to just outcomes. But so far, no response.

Nevertheless, I promise you, there will be an investigation.