Juror accused of perjury in DUI case pleads not guilty

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CHARLESTON — A man pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges accusing him of lying during testimony that led a judge to overturn a guilty verdict in a DUI case.

While Jacob R. Stephens later recanted and the judge reversed his decision, he still faces charges for making the false statement in a post-trial hearing in the DUI case against Christopher K. Whitley.

In turn, Whitley was later charged with bribery after police said their investigation led to the discovery that he recruited a man to try to influence another juror in his DUI case.

After Thursday’s hearing, Coles County State’s Attorney Jesse Danley said a plea offer made to Stephens in exchange for his cooperation remains in place. The offer was mentioned during a hearing last week on a prosecution motion to reinstate the guilty verdict in the DUI case.

Public Defender Anthony Ortega, who represents Stephens, declined comment Thursday. During the hearing, he entered the not-guilty plea on Stephens’ behalf.

He told Circuit Judge James Glenn that Stephens would waive his right to a preliminary hearing. That meant the judge didn’t have to consider prosecution evidence to decide if the case should continue.

Glenn scheduled Stephens’ next hearing for Nov. 18.

The charges against Stephens, 23, of Mattoon, are in connection with his saying during an August hearing that, during Whitley’s trial, he overheard another juror say Whitley bought his way out of trouble but would now “get what he deserved.”

Whitley, 41, of Mattoon was charged with driving under the influence in May 2015 and the jury’s guilty verdict came during a trial in April.

During last week’s hearing, Stephens testified and admitted that his claim about what he heard from the other juror wasn’t true. He said he had no reason for why he said that before.

However, evidence at that hearing also included a recording of Stephens’ interview by Mattoon police. In the interview, he said he met after the trial with attorney Todd Reardon, who represented Whitley in the DUI case, and Reardon asked him to make the false statement.

But Reardon also testified and denied making the request, claiming he’s passed a lie detector test to verify it.

Glenn based his decision to reinstate the DUI verdict on Stephens’ testimony and Whitley now awaits sentencing on that conviction.

According to police testimony at an earlier hearing in Whitley’s case, the investigation found that he had a man offer $5,000 to a woman who was on the DUI case jury to say she looked up online information on Whitley during the trial.

The investigation also found that Whitley offered the man, a mutual friend of his and the juror’s, a discount on a vehicle at the Pilson automotive dealership, where Whitley works, according to the testimony. https://jg-tc.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/juror-accused-of-perjury-in-coles-county-dui-case-pleads/article_f8268ac8-514e-5319-af28-3375ab2ed97b.html

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