Prosecutors say a former standout Waukegan high school basketball star intimidated three Lake County probation office employees when he pantomimed firing a gun at them, after being thrown out of their office hours before a hearing to revoke his probation.
However, defense attorney Lawrence Wade said the probation employees who witnessed Jereme Richmond's gestures inflated their hysteria over their confrontation with the 21-year-old in Waukegan.
He added that, if the jury looks at all the evidence, Richmond will be found not guilty when the trial wraps up late Wednesday or early Thursday.
"This is not about a probation violation," Wade told the jury during opening statements early Wednesday. "This is about whether Jereme actually harassed a witness."
Richmond, of the 2000 block of Arthur Drive in Waukegan, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of harassing a witness -- the probation officer who was planning to testify against him.
Richmond could spend up to seven years in jail if found guilty of the charges, authorities said.
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Jim Newman said Richmond was on parole from a 2011 weapons case and was ordered to take a urine test after meeting with his probation officer on April 22. Richmond ignored the request to take the test at the probation offices on County Street and left there without taking the test.
The probation officer twice more asked Richmond to take the test in the days that followed, Newman said, but Richmond either didn't show up to take the test or offered excuses on why he couldn't take it.
The refusal to test prompted the probation officer to contact the Lake County State's Attorney's Office and schedule a parole violation hearing against Richmond. But after being told of the impending hearing, Newman said, Richmond went to the Lake County Probation Offices to submit to a court-ordered urine test.
However, because Richmond arrived at 4:55 p.m. the Thursday before his hearing was scheduled, Newman said the probation officer was told he wasn't allowed to take the test and was sent out of the offices.
In response, Newman said, Richmond told the female probation officer, "Be safe. Be real safe." Officials said then Richmond went out to his vehicle, sat in the car in front of the probation offices, then made a gesture resembling a gun and pantomimed firing the weapon.
"In full view of the probation officers, he put his fingers up in the shape of a gun and moved it a bunch of times, as if he was firing it," Newman said. "(The employees) didn't feel like they could safely leave their workplace."
The probation officer called Lake County sheriff's department who arrested Richmond and charged him with harassment.
Richmond was a star at Waukegan High School and played one season at the University of Illinois before leaving college in 2011 in hopes of being drafted by the NBA.
After going undrafted, he got into trouble with the law. He was charged with aggravated battery, aggravated assault, disorderly conduct, illegal possession of a firearm, and unlawful use of a handgun after authorities said he threatened to shoot his ex-girlfriend.
He eventually pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon for bringing a loaded gun to his girlfriend's house and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.