News - Joliet and Will County

No charges brought against two men in scuffle with Joliet mayor

Attorneys Lawrence O'Reily (center) and Michael Baker (right) address the media Thursday after a Will County prosecutor declined to charge Victor Williams (left) and Jamal Smith in connection with a May 31 scuffle with  Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk.

No charges were filed Thursday at the first court appearance for the two men arrested after a scuffle with Mayor Bob O’Dekirk at a Black Lives Matter rally.

The development was a sign that the case is going their way, said lawyers for Victor Williams and Jamal Smith.

"It's progress," attorney Michael Baker, who represents Smith, said.

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office could still bring charges later. But Baker said it is significant that prosecutors would not press charges in the first court appearance after Williams and Baker were arrested.

"Given that the alleged complainant is the mayor of this town, I think that speaks volumes," Baker said.

The two men were arrested by Joliet police for mob action and aggravated assault, charges that basically go away with prosecutors’ decision not to move forward with the case on Thursday.

Williams of Lockport and Smith of Crest Hill were told in court that bond conditions placed upon them after their arrests no longer apply.

Assistant State's Attorney Chris Koch would not discuss why charges were not filed or whether prosecutors planned to charge later.

"The case is under investigation," Koch said. "Because it is a case that's under investigation, we cannot comment on what we may or may not do."

Illinois State Police are investigating what happened at the May 31 protest in which O’Dekirk grabbed Williams and forced him toward a police vehicle. Smith, who is Williams’ brother, jumped into the fray, which then was joined by several Joliet police officers.

Lawyers for the two men said contact was initiated by O'Dekirk. They also said Williams and Smith did not know O'Dekirk was the mayor or why he grabbed Williams.

O'Dekirk has said he was pushed by Williams before he grabbed him.

Video of the scene shot from behind Williams' back, which has been made public, does not show that he pushed O'Dekirk but also does not give a full view of the encounter.. It does show the mayor forcibly grabbing Williams and pulling him away before Smith jumps in followed by several police officers.

The incident has sparked protests and calls for O’Dekirk’s resignation.

Nearly 20 people joined a demonstration outside the Will County Courthouse to show support for Williams and Smith when they went into the courtroom to face the possibility of formal charges being brought against them.

"The mayor and police are not being charged with anything," said Kyle Creal of Joliet. "They charged the young man (Williams) with assault. But he was the one being assaulted. This has to stop."

Tony R. Graves said the demonstration was held "to galvanize people and keep the interest up."

Graves said after the hearing that he was glad to learn that formal charges were not filed against Williams and Smith, but more needs to be done.

"I think there needs to be some overall accountability," he said.

Attorney Lawrence X. O'Reilly, who represents Williams, said the two attorneys and their clients have net with state police and provided them with video from the scene.

"We are fully cooperating with the investigation," O'Reilly said.

Both lawyers expressed confidence that state police were conducting an independent investigation

O'Reilly said the investigation is two weeks old and its length could depend on the degree to which investigators look into the conduct of police as well as the mayor that night.

“If they want to interview police officers, there’s a whole can of worms that opens up,” O’Reilly said, noting that police could invoke union protections.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News