PEKIN — After allegedly trying to attack yet another woman, perhaps Brian Washburn finally has run out of luck in dodging prison.
That is, if his judge decides not to let him off easy again.
Last year, a Tazewell County jury convicted Washburn, 48, on two felony counts of domestic battery for a brutal 2016 attack. At sentencing, the Kewanee man faced up to 14 years behind bars, but Judge Michael Risinger let him walk away on probation.
That was despite Washburn's history of drugs, alcohol and crime, including another domestic-battery conviction. Adding all that together in a presentecing report, a probation officer warned the judge, “Brian’s overall risk to reoffend is high.”
And reoffend, he did, according to authorities.
A few weeks ago, he allegedly tried to attack a woman in a bar in Kewanee, then shoved her boyfriend and grabbed another man by the throat. In the wake of Henry County charges in that fracas, Washburn was arrested this week and brought to Tazewell County, where prosecutors seek to revoke his probation.
Washburn could be sent to prison for up to 14 years. Or he could be let go again on probation. That decision eventually will be up to the same judge, Risinger.
Meanwhile, Washburn's 2016 victim, Emily Meeks, is hoping for justice this time. Meeks — whose injuries included a broken nose and broken jaw, the latter of which required two surgeries — had been shocked and terrified last year when Washburn waltzed away on probation. But this week, she was overjoyed to hear that he was being held at the Tazewell County Jail on $100,000 bond.
"This really makes me happy," said Meeks, 29. "I don't feel so scared of him now."
A year ago, Washburn's legal history was detailed in this space. He has had legal run-ins since his teen years, including a battery of his then-girlfriend at age 16. As an adult, he has two felony convictions in Henry County regarding meth, getting probation each time. He served jail time in Iowa for assaulting a girlfriend, and he was convicted of a misdemeanor count of domestic battery in Henry County regarding the same woman.
In 2016 in a bar in Pekin, he met Meeks, who soon moved into his Kewanee home. In time, she has said, he got rough with her. He exploded the night of Nov. 9, 2016, punching and choking her in a car in Pekin, according to court documents. He drove into Bartonville, stopping for gas and cigarettes before continuing to Kewanee, beating her along the way, she has said. In Kewanee, he allegedly locked her in a bedroom for two days, letting her eventually leave to go to a hospital.
Days later, Washburn was arrested and held in Tazewell County Jail on $75,000 bond. He was indicted on two felony charges of domestic battery and aggravated kidnapping, the latter a Class X felony with a mandatory prison term of six to 30 years.
This April, a Tazewell County jury acquitted him of the kidnapping count but convicted him of the two domestic charges. At a June sentencing, prosecutors requested the maximum of 14 years. Instead, after Washburn had spent 19 months in jail, Judge Risinger decided to give him probation for two years.
Meeks was stunned, saying she feared for her safety. But to me, Washburn painted himself as the victim, saying Meeks had concocted many of the allegations.
“It was a tragic night,” Washburn told me. ”It was very damaging to my reputation in Kewanee.”
Then he managed to dodge another legal bullet. Last summer, Peoria County prosecutors considered possible charges regarding Washburn's actions with Meek on the west side of the Illinois River. But in the end, medical experts could not pinpoint any wrongdoings in Peoria County, and no further charges were filed.
So, Washburn was free to stay at his home in Kewanee. Under the terms of terms of his probation, he was not to commit crimes, visit taverns or drink alcohol; further, he was to submit to random alcohol testing by police, plus attend Alcoholics Anonymous at least four times a week.
He violated most of those terms May 23, authorities say.
That night, he went to the End Zone bar in Kewanee, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed last week by the Tazewell County State's Attorney's Office. Kewanee police were called there on the report of a fight. According to witnesses and surveillance video, Washburn "started to go after" a woman inside the business, the affidavit states. When her boyfriend tried to intercede, Washburn "pushed him multiple times," the affidavit states. Another man approached Washburn, who "grabbed (him) by the throat," the affidavit states.
In the wake of that fight, Washburn was charged in Henry County with a felony count of aggravated battery and a misdemeanor count of battery. He was given a notice to appear in court June 24.
However, on June 4, an arrest warrant was issued in Tazewell County in seeking revocation of his probation. According to the affidavit, he specifically violated parole terms by failing to submit to a police-requested alcohol test after the fight. Also, without elaboration, the affidavit said he had "used or consumed alcohol on or about April 15," as shown in a failed alcohol test. Further, the affidavit said he had not provided evidence of attending AA since May 1.
At a hearing Wednesday, Washburn's bond was kept at $100,000, meaning he would have to post $10,000 to be released. Also, a hearing was set for 10 a.m. June 20 regarding the petition to revoke probation. At that hearing, Washburn would have an opportunity to offer a counter to prosecutors' allegations.
When all that is done, Judge Risinger could sentence Washburn to prison time, upwards of the 14 years allowed by last year's conviction. Or, the judge could modify Washburn's probation — or even let it remain as is — and allow him to go home to Kewanee once again.
In other words, the judge could really do something, or do nothing at all.
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.