Carroll County hate-crime defendant blames son for harassing Black neighbor

He hung effigy, Cheryl Hampton claims

Cheryl Hampton

MOUNT CARROLL – A former Savanna woman, who pleaded guilty March 1 to harassing a Black witness accusing her of hate crimes, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, April 26, after losing a bid to withdraw her guilty plea and proceed to a jury trial.

According to her motion to withdraw the plea, filed April 1, Cheryl Hampton, 69, said she was guilty only “to protect her son [Chad Hampton, 47,] from prosecution, who was the actual instigator and facilitator of the above-described offense of witness intimidation. ... The defendant does not wish to take responsibility for this offense, since she had no involvement in the placement of the black effigy or the racist and derogatory language displayed on her home, who she was sharing with her son.”

Chad Hampton in January 2024

Carroll County Judge Jerry Kane denied the request April 10.

Cheryl Hampton, now of Rock Island, faces three to seven years in prison. It is a probational offense.

She was expected to be sentenced April 17, but the hearing was reset at the request of the defense and over the objections of State’s Attorney Aaron Kaney.

Hampton pleaded guilty the day after Chad Hampton, now of Victoria in Knox County, was found not guilty at a bench trial of criminal damage to property, a misdemeanor.

He was accused of spraying the same neighbor’s yard with weed-killer, but Kane found that the state did not prove that he knowingly damaged the lawn.

The Hamptons also are accused in a civil lawsuit of harassing their neighbor for months in 2020, resulting in several alleged violations of the Illinois hate crimes statute.

That lawsuit, the state’s first civil hate crime lawsuit, was filed by Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office May 31, 2022, and seeks penalties of at least $100,000.

According to the court record, Cheryl Hampton, who is represented by Mount Carroll Public Defender David J. Brown in the criminal case, has consistently failed to appear at case management conferences set in the civil case.

She failed to appear in person or at virtual hearings Nov. 27, Jan. 23, March 25, April 4 and April 18, court records show.

The next case management conference in the lawsuit is set for May 23.

Defendants in civil suits are not entitled to appointed attorneys; Cheryl Hampton appears to not be represented, and Chad Hampton has been appearing pro se.

According to the suit:

The neighbor bought his home in the 300 block of Bowen Street on Oct. 16, 2019. The Hamptons lived next door in a rental.

A little more than six months after he moved in, on July 12, 2020, he told police that his orange retractable fence was cut in half the day after Cheryl Hampton told him she would tear it down.

Savanna police Lt. Daniel Nevills, now retired, responded to the Hamptons’ home, where Cheryl Hampton used a racial slur and told Nevills that she didn’t want to live next door to a Black person, according to the suit.

Later that day, the neighbor told police that Chad Hampton sprayed his yard with weed-killer. Chad Hampton was charged Sept. 20 and arraigned on the misdemeanor charge Oct. 19, 2020.

Less than a week later, an effigy was hung by a noose in a tree in the Hamptons’ yard, bearing a mask painted black with a curly black wig with patches of white, resembling the neighbor’s salt-and-pepper hair, and wearing clothing resembling his, according to the suit. A large chain bound the head, arms and torso. The tree was a few feet from the neighbor’s home.

The Hamptons also painted a racial slur on one of their windows facing the neighbor’s home and draped a Confederate flag behind it, according to the suit.

The scene, photos of which were filed along with the civil complaint, was staged in retaliation against the neighbor, who had contacted Savanna police repeatedly about other “aggressive actions” by the Hamptons, according to the suit.

Savanna police visited the Hampton home again Oct. 26, 2020, and Cheryl Hampton “admitted the display targeted” the neighbor because they were tired of his complaints against them, she said.

Police asked her to move the effigy out of his view, and she refused, according to the suit.

The next day, Nevills and then-Mayor Chris Lain went to the Hamptons’ home, and Cheryl Hampton told them that she was tired of the complaints, that she was angry that her son had to take a day off work to attend court, that the hanging figure was a “Halloween decoration” and that she would not move it out of her neighbor’s view, according to the suit.

She was arrested and charged later that day with harassing a witness, the charge to which she pleaded guilty March 1.

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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.