A man convicted a year ago of firing gunshots into an East Peoria house faces new charges in the same case as the result, his attorney claims, of vindictive prosecution.
After Tyler Davis persuaded a Tazewell County judge to let him withdraw his guilty plea and proceed to trial, the county State’s Attorney’s Office in November charged him with armed violence, which carries a maximum prison term twice as long as his original charge.
Davis, 24, is being punished because he exercised his legal rights, defense attorney Gary Morris argued in a motion filed this week.
He is not, Assistant State’s Attorney Jon Girardo countered when the motion was informally discussed in court Thursday.
Girardo said Davis was advised in plea negotiations that evidence in the case supports a more serious charge than those first filed against him and a co-defendant.
As a legal discussion, “This is a very interesting issue,” Circuit Judge Thomas Keith said as he set March 16 for formal arguments on Morris’ motion.
Davis, of East Peoria, and Anton Grayson, 23, of Pekin, were charged with firing gunshots into a Chicago Street home the night of July 15, 2016. While no one was injured, two of the home’s residents hid in the backyard as the bullets penetrated deep into the house.
Prosecution of the case turned unique when Judge Stephen Kouri found Grayson guilty in a bench trial last March of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon but acquitted him of the more serious crime of aggravated firearm discharge into an occupied house.
Davis had pleaded guilty three months earlier to aggravated discharge while the unlawful weapons use charge was dismissed. Kouri sentenced him to nine years in prison, while Grayson received five years.
Morris told Keith that outcome prompted Davis to seek to withdraw his plea. Davis now faces up to 30 years if he’s convicted of the new armed violence charge.
Under state case law involving “prosecutorial vindictiveness,” a defendant must show a prosecutor “had some animus or retaliatory motive” for replacing one charge with another more serious, and would not have done so “absent that motive.”
Girardo told Keith he will argue that his office consulted with the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s Office before raising Davis’ charge to armed violence following his plea withdrawal.
Davis has remained in custody since he and Grayson were arrested the night of the shooting.