Man doesn't deserve new trial just because prosecutor called him a liar, court says

 
Updated 3/9/2018 6:38 AM
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  • Scott Peters shouldn't receive a new trial on attempted murder charges stemming from the shooting of two McHenry County Sheriff's deputies in 2014, a state appeals court ruled this week.

    Scott Peters shouldn't receive a new trial on attempted murder charges stemming from the shooting of two McHenry County Sheriff's deputies in 2014, a state appeals court ruled this week.

  • McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Maness and his wife, Sue, share a proud moment after Maness was awarded a purple heart in November 2014 for being shot in the line of duty. Maness died in September 2015 as a result of wounds suffered in the shooting.

    McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Maness and his wife, Sue, share a proud moment after Maness was awarded a purple heart in November 2014 for being shot in the line of duty. Maness died in September 2015 as a result of wounds suffered in the shooting. Madhu Krishnamurthy | Staff Photographer, 2014

  • Geneva Police Chief Eric Passarelli concentrates on safely delivering soup and salad while working at the "Tip A Cop" Special Olympics fundraiser March 1 at FoxFire restaurant.

    Geneva Police Chief Eric Passarelli concentrates on safely delivering soup and salad while working at the "Tip A Cop" Special Olympics fundraiser March 1 at FoxFire restaurant. courtesy of the Geneva Police Department

  • William Crowley is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the Kendall County Food Pantry (now the Kendall County Community Food Pantry). The pantry is now suing him to recover nearly $25,000.

    William Crowley is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the Kendall County Food Pantry (now the Kendall County Community Food Pantry). The pantry is now suing him to recover nearly $25,000. Courtesy of the Scottsdale Police Department

Is calling a defendant a "lying liar" in front of jurors and sarcastically referring to him as "John Wayne over here draped in the American flag" enough to win him a new trial?

Not in the case of Scott Peters, a McHenry County man locked up for shooting a pair of sheriff's deputies with an AR-15 rifle in 2014. One of the deputies, Dwight Maness, died from his wounds almost a year later.

A state appeals court this week unanimously rejected Peters' appeal, denying -- among other claims -- that he was prejudiced when a prosecutor mocked and called him a liar during closing arguments.

"(It) is not improper for the prosecutor to call the defendant a 'liar' if conflicts in the evidence make such an assertion a fair inference," Justice Mary Seminara-Schostok wrote in the 32-page ruling. Or, in other words, if the name fits, use it.

The court did find a couple of other comments from the prosecutor improper -- one citing his opinion of the case and another referring to the slain deputy as having "spilled blood" in the line of duty. But the harm was not so bad that it cost Peters a fair trial, Seminara-Schostok wrote.

Both McHenry County Sheriff William Prim and State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally were pleased with the court's decision.

"His appeal of the verdicts consisted, in my view, of nothing but a litany of unconvincing technical legal arguments," Prim said. "The people of McHenry County have been well-served by the criminal justice system throughout this horrendous case, and this latest decision is no exception."

The case

Peters, 56, is serving a 135-year sentence on attempted murder charges for opening fire on three McHenry County Sheriff's deputies performing a well-being check at his Holiday Hills home Oct. 16, 2014.

"If we're gonna do this, let's do this. Airborne!," Peters, a U.S. Army veteran, reportedly shouted before firing the assault rifle.

Bullets struck Deputy Khalia Satkiewicz and Maness, who succumbed to his injuries 11 months later after undergoing more than a dozen surgeries. He was 47.

Besides the name-calling claims, Peters' appeal argued that his constitutional right to confront his accusers was violated when he was removed from the courtroom for a small portion of his trial. Judge Sharon Prather ordered him out after he interrupted the proceedings eight times one morning to claim he was ill and needed a doctor.

A nurse who examined Peters found no evidence he was sick, and even his own attorney believed he was faking -- a contention bolstered when prosecutors played a video of him in the jail earlier that day showing him feigning illness.

Missing funds

A man charged with stealing thousands of dollars from a Kendall County food pantry now faces a lawsuit over the matter.

The reorganized Kendall County Community Food Pantry wants $24,580 from William Crowley of Scottsdale, Arizona. Crowley is the father of Maria Spaeth, the former director of the pantry.

Crowley and Spaeth's husband, Kenneth, were charged in January 2017 with stealing from the pantry. Kenneth Spaeth was its treasurer. Maria Spaeth died in June 2016 of prescription-drug intoxication, shortly after Yorkville police and the Kendall County State's Attorney began investigating the missing money.

The lawsuit says Crowley committed civil theft, unjust enrichment and civil conspiracy.

It alleges that from September 2012 through June 2016, he accessed pantry funds without proper authorization, including using a pantry credit card and getting reimbursed for personal purchases.

What did he buy? Records show 242 transactions, including purchases of gasoline, food, tires, a mattress and home-improvement items.

Spaeth and Crowley are due in criminal court Monday.

Going to the show

Carpentersville police and some young residents are going to the movies this afternoon.

Using a $500 donation from a McDonald's restaurant, police will take 30 kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dundee Township to see "Black Panther."

"This event will allow us to interact with kids in our community in a positive and healthy way, see a hit movie and responsibly use the McDonald's donation we received last month," Chief Michael Kilbourne said.

Don't worry, the kids aren't ditching school to see the superhero flick. It's a half-day for students in Community Unit District 300.

To protect and serve

Dinner? When your server is a uniformed police officer, maybe you tip a little more generously.

Geneva police raised $2,200 for Special Olympics March 1 during a "Tip A Cop" night at the FoxFire Restaurant.

Chief Eric Passarelli and officers Tom Krueger, Chuck Parisi and Mark Russo were spotted hauling trays of steaks, seafood and other entrees to diners. There also was a 50/50 raffle for the cause.

And two days later, four officers braved cold water to raise $4,300 for the cause during the Polar Plunge at Loon Lake in Yorkville.

Court comes to campus

A select group of Harper College students and faculty members will get the chance to observe a rarely seen aspect of the criminal justice system in action next week when justices from the Illinois Appellate Court First District come to campus to hear a case.

Law enforcement, paralegal and business law students will watch as the court hears arguments in the case of Patrick Harbin, a 24- year-old Chicago man hoping to overturn his conviction and 22-year prison sentence for armed robbery and aggravated vehicular hijacking. The charges stem from a September 2013 carjacking near a nightclub in Chicago's River North neighborhood.

Harbin is arguing he deserves a new trial because the judge who presided over his first trial failed to ask jurors whether they understood he had no obligation to testify in his own defense, and the fact he chose not to couldn't be held against him.

He's also arguing that his defense attorney messed up by failing to call an expert witness to cast doubt on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony.

• Got a tip? Send an email to copsandcrime@dailyherald.com or call (847) 427-4483.

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