OREGON – An Ogle County judge ruled Tuesday that the case against a Byron man who is accused of hitting one person with his car and stabbing another on New Year’s Eve should continue.
Jeremy G. Jones, 41, of Byron, and his attorney William Gibbs appeared in court for a preliminary hearing on one count of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Jones also is charged with unlawful possession of cannabis by driver, speeding and operating an uninsured motor vehicle, all stemming from a Dec. 31 incident in the 200 block of Route 26 in downtown Forreston.
Jones pleaded not guilty to the charges and demanded a jury trial after Judge John Redington’s decision that enough probable cause existed to continue the case. Redington set Jones’ next pretrial hearing for Feb. 8.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Ogle County Patrol Deputy Matthew Gendusa said he responded to an altercation at 10:40 p.m. Dec. 31 in which it was reported that one person had been stabbed and another was hit by a vehicle.
Gendusa said a female driver told him she was driving her truck on Route 26 when a sedan began tailgating her near Forreston.
“When I arrived, she was being treated by Forreston EMS,” Gendusa said in court.
He said the woman told him she “brake checked” three times before pulling the vehicle into a parking lot at Josh’s Saloon.
A male passenger in her truck exited the vehicle and approached the sedan, exchanging words with the driver, who was identified as Jones. The man told Gendusa that Jones sped up and hit him, prompting the woman to try to stop the vehicle by grabbing at the driver’s side window.
“She said she felt being struck by the male driver,” Gendusa said.
Witnesses told him that the sedan then left the scene.
After the woman was questioned by Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Leisten, Gendusa said he later learned that she had suffered a stab wound in the shoulder that required stitches at Freeport Hospital. He also said he was told that the man had suffered a concussion after falling down when he was struck by the sedan.
On cross-examination, Gibbs asked Gendusa if he knew that only the male’s toe had been run over “after he immediately jumped out of the truck” and confronted his client.
“Nobody told you that his toe got run over?” Gibbs said in court.
“I believe he told me his knees and shin had been struck,” Gendusa said.
Gibbs questioned Gendusa about whether any other witnesses had seen the alleged altercation, which he claimed resulted in “bruises and red marks” all over Jones’ throat.
“Did anyone say she was hanging on to him?” Gibbs said.
“No, sir,” Gendusa said.
Gibbs asked whether the man who confronted Jones had been under the influence of alcohol, and Gendusa said he appeared to have been drinking. He said he did not see any signs of intoxication in the woman.
Leisten said a knife was found on Jones when he was stopped by another Ogle County officer near Leaf River, several miles east of Forreston.
Ogle County Patrol Sgt. Michael Halfman testified that he stopped Jones’ sedan on Route 72 after being called to assist with the incident. He said he identified the car from a partial license plate number.
Halfman said Jones cooperated with his requests to shut off the vehicle, toss his keys out the window and exit the vehicle.
“I checked his waistband, and it seemed that the belt buckle felt larger than usual. So I asked him if the belt buckle contained a knife, and he said it did,” Halfman testified. “I removed the knife from the belt buckle and took his belt off. The very tip was shiny, like there was fluid on it. I told him a subject had been stabbed in Forreston and he was currently a suspect.
“He told me he knew about it, and he was only defending himself.”
“Did you or any other individual follow up on my defendant’s claim that he was only defending himself?” Gibbs said in court.
Halfman said he did not, noting that he only took Jones to the Ogle County Correctional Center in Oregon.
Only prosecution witnesses testify at preliminary hearings.
In closing arguments, Gibbs said probable cause did not exist to hold his client and that Jones was only defending himself from “people who jumped out of their car” and started screaming at him.
“There was a woman hanging on to his car trying to attack him,” Gibbs said.
“The defendant had a knife on his person that had a substance on it. There is enough probable cause to continue,” Leisten said.
Jones initially was arrested for attempted first-degree murder. Last week, Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock said his office revised the charges after reviewing reports and speaking with law enforcement.
Jones’ remains in the Ogle County Correctional Center on a $120,000 bond.