Jury trial set for Byron man accused in New Year’s Eve incident in Forreston

Jeremy G. Jones

OREGON – A jury trial has been scheduled for October in the case of a Byron man accused of hitting one person with his car and stabbing another on New Year’s Eve.

Jeremy G. Jones, 42, of Byron, and his attorney, William Gibbs, appeared before Judge John Redington on Wednesday for a pretrial conference on felony charges of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

The charges stem from a Dec. 31, 2022, incident in the 200 block of Route 26 in downtown Forreston. A jury trial is scheduled for Oct 17 to 18, with a final pretrial conference set for Oct. 11.

Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Leisten told the court Wednesday that the state was entering a motion to dismiss the aggravated battery causing great bodily harm charge, leaving the two remaining felony charges for the trial.

Gibbs asked Redington for a continuance of the Oct. 11 pretrial conference because he was having “a problem” with reaching what he described as “hostile” witnesses.

Redington said he would leave the pretrial date as Oct. 11, and the jury trial will be Oct. 17 and 18.

Jones pleaded not guilty to all the charges in January after a preliminary hearing at which Ogle County Patrol Deputy Matthew Gendusa said he responded to an altercation at 10:40 p.m. Dec. 31 in which one person reportedly 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. 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.

Gendusa said he later learned that she had suffered a stab wound in the shoulder that required stitches at Freeport Hospital. He said he also was told that the man had suffered a concussion after falling down when he was struck by the sedan.

Witnesses told Gendusa that the sedan then left the scene.

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 at the January hearing, Gibbs said Jones was only defending himself from “people who jumped out of their car” and started screaming at him and that “there was a woman hanging on to his car trying to attack him.”

Leisten argued that Jones had a knife on his person that had a substance on it.

Jones initially was arrested for attempted first-degree murder, but those charges were revised after the state’s attorney’s office reviewed reports and spoke with law enforcement. Prosecutors also dismissed charges of unlawful possession of cannabis, speeding and operating an uninsured motor vehicle.

Jones remains free on $50,000 bond.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.