UPDATED AT 5 P.M. JAN. 8
YORKVILLE – A Kendall County circuit court judge will determine the fate of an Aurora man charged in connection with the hit-and-run death of an Oswego High School softball coach next week.
During a Wednesday, Jan. 8 court hearing, Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer ordered a bench trial for Nehemiah Williams, 39, on the charges of failing to report an accident involving a death and reckless homicide, which are Class 1 and 3 felonies respectively. Williams willingly waived his right to a jury trial for those two charges prior to the order, according to Pilmer.
A bench trial means a judge will determine whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty, along with sentencing, instead of a jury.
Dawn Projansky, Williams's attorney, said her client will be taking a cold plea for the driving with a revoked or suspended license charge, which is a Class 4 felony, following Williams pleading guilty to the charge in court. She said it means there's no agreement between the parties but the defense will not be disputing it.
Projansky said the rationale for her client opting for the bench trial as opposed to the jury trial for the other two charges was just part of the defense's thought process. She said she couldn't elaborate further.
"We've heard great things about the judge and we're moving forward," Projansky said.
The bench trial is set to begin 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 13 at the Kendall County Courthouse, 807 W. John St. Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis said the trial is anticipated to last for two to three days.
Projansky said she anticipates the sentencing for the driving with a revoked or suspended license charge coming at a later date following the bench trial for the other two charges.
The update comes after Pilmer ruled during a Dec. 26 hearing that Williams will still be subject to a reckless homicide charge. Pilmer also ruled during that hearing that Williams violated the terms of his jail release after the battery on Williams's GPS monitor were dead for a few hours one day last month, but he wouldn't increase or revoke Williams's bond.
Prosecutors allege Williams was driving on Plainfield Road near Plainsman Court in rural Oswego Township on June 24, 2018 when he killed Amanda Stanton, who was 26 years old when she died, in a hit and run crash. Stanton, who was the head softball coach at OHS and a math intervention specialist at Jefferson Junior High School in Naperville, was walking along the side of the road.
Weis said Stanton was allegedly struck by Williams at about 11 p.m. or midnight. He said her body was found on the side of the road the following afternoon.
Williams was arrested on charges related to the hit and run incident on June 27, 2018. He posted $15,000 bail, with bond being $150,000. He was subsequently released from the Kendall County jail in Yorkville Oct. 5, 2018.
According to court records, witnesses that the prosecution intends to call during the trial include Robert Brenart of Brenart Eye Clinic, following Pilmer ruling that Williams's eye care records are relevant to the case. Other possible witnesses include relatives of Stanton and officials from the Kendall County Sheriff's Office, the Yorkville Police Department, the Oswego Police Department, the Sandwich Police Department, the Kendall County coroner's office, the Aurora Police Department, the Plainfield Police Department and the Illinois State Police crime lab.
Prosecutors said during the Wednesday hearing that Williams' license was suspended due to a prior charge of driving while under the influence.
Projansky said in court records that she wanted to request mention of the license suspension and the reason for such to be inadmissible in court.
"Receiving information as to prior statutory summary suspensions or a pending statutory summer suspensions brings an element of driving under the influence to a case with no allegations of such conduct," Projansky said.
Prosecutors said in court records they wanted to request specific hearsay – namely statements of someone saying that Williams did not know he hit Stanton while driving and thought he hit a construction sign – to not be admissible in court. They said those specific statements were made out of court and all from witnesses that said Williams told them that he didn't know he hit somebody.
Pilmer allowed those requests for inadmissible evidence during the Dec. 26 court hearing.