6 years for Oswego man who threatened tollway chairman

An Oswego man with a nearly 30-year history of harassing and threatening Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom likely won't be making any phone calls for a while.

James Conroy, 58, formerly of the 500 block of Chestnut Drive, was sentenced Thursday in DuPage County court to six years in prison for telephone harassment - the maximum allowable.

Conroy previously was twice sentenced to probation on the charges and twice violated his probation leading to Thursday's sentencing.

In December 2015, Conroy left a message at Schillerstrom's home threatening his life and later called Naperville police to tell them he was going to shoot Schillerstrom "right between the eyes" at the Dec. 17, 2015, tollway board meeting.

Conroy called Naperville police June 10 and demanded they bring him a revolver and several bullets so he could "execute" Schillerstrom.

"We're not talking about just some prank calls here," Assistant State's Attorney Louisa Nuckolls said. "They may have started that way nearly 30 years ago, but they ultimately became violent."

In multiple calls to Naperville police and messages left on Schillerstrom's personal voicemail, which were played in court Thursday, Conroy blamed Schillerstrom and his legal representation in Conroy's 1987 DUI case for ruining Conroy's life and causing his mental illness.

Throughout multiple evaluations over the years, Conroy has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, depression and bipolar disorder.

Schillerstrom testified Thursday that he knew of Conroy from growing up in the same Naperville neighborhood but first interacted with him when he represented Conroy in a 1987 DUI case.

"He pleaded guilty and got court supervision," Schillerstrom said. "Under the circumstances, I thought it was a fair and good disposition."

About a year later, however, Schillerstrom said he ran into Conroy in a Naperville coffee shop and Conroy apologized for spray painting the sign at Schillerstrom's Naperville law office.

"I asked him why he did it and told him not to do it again," Schillerstrom said. "But after that meeting, he started to call my home. The conversations were alarming and often laced with profanity."

Despite twice being sentenced to probation on the case, Conroy continued the calls as recently as August, causing Schillerstrom to "substantially step up security" at the tollway building in Downers Grove and his law office in Lisle.

"Obviously this has had a negative impact on me and my family. And it's had a negative impact on my employment," Schillerstrom testified. "It's not something you relish, having someone threaten to kill you and then having to read about it in the newspaper. I've stopped answering my phone."

Conroy's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Val Pacis, argued for a lesser prison sentence, fearing Conroy will receive some, but not all, of the mental health treatment he needs.

"Mr. Conroy is a mentally ill individual. His reality is not something we can understand," she said. "He struggles with something we cannot understand. He's really more of a nuisance than anything."

When given a chance to speak, Conroy said he's "gotten sober" and no longer blames Schillerstrom for his problems.

Conroy receives credit for 384 days in custody and, with good behavior, actually will serve about two years in prison.

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