Former Savanna man, subject of hate suit, found not guilty of lawn damage

Chad Hampton in January 2024

MOUNT CARROLL – A former Savanna man who, along with his mother, is the subject of the state’s first civil hate-crime suit, was found not guilty Thursday at a bench trial on a related criminal misdemeanor charge.

Chad Hampton, 47, now of Victoria in Knox County, and his mother, Cheryl Hampton, 69, now of Streator, are accused in the lawsuit of harassing their Black neighbor for months in 2020, resulting in several violations of the Illinois Hate Crimes Statute.

The suit, filed May 31, 2022, by Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office, seeks penalties of at least $100,000.

Among its accusations are that Chad Hampton sprayed the neighbor’s yard with weed-killer on July 16, 2020, and as a result, he was charged Sept. 22, 2020, in Carroll County court with criminal damage to property, a misdemeanor.

Presiding Judge Jerry Kane found Hampton not guilty of knowingly damaging the lawn.

“This case was never about whether racism is acceptable,” Chad Hampton’s attorney, Daniel Huffman of Sterling, said in an email Monday.

“Right-minded people agree that racism is never acceptable,” Huffman added. “The trial was over whether a crime was committed. Judge Kane correctly found that the state had simply not proven a crime.”

A status hearing in the suit will be held March 4.

In addition to the accusations that the yard was damaged, the suit also says the pair hung an effigy of their neighbor, bound in chains, in a tree a few feet from his property, hung a Confederate flag and displayed a racial slur in a window facing his home, and painted swastikas on their garage, which also was facing his property.

Have a Question about this article?
Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.