OTTAWA — A Thomson man charged in an April high-speed chase, during which authorities said he drove at an officer who dived for cover, was found Wednesday to be unfit for trial.
James R. Tracy, 38, of Thomson, now is unlikely to stand trial in 2021 after what turned out to be an uncontested fitness hearing. Though the report from Tracy’s June 21 evaluation is under seal, attorneys and Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. signaled Tracy was found to lack the mental health to assist his lawyer at trial.
Tracy was present in La Salle County Circuit Court for the short-lived proceedings but he did not stand before the bench with attorneys. Rather, he sat in the jury box and did not speak during the proceedings – though he did babble incoherently on his way back to La Salle County Jail.
Fitness is a legal term that refers to a defendant’s ability to assist his legal counsel at trial and is distinct from sanity, which refers to one’s mental state at the time of the offense.
Tracy now will be turned over to the Illinois Department of Human Services for treatment. His stay will be indefinite and could be extended depending on his progress.
Tracy still is under indictment and could face up to 5 years in prison if convicted of any of his three felonies – aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated fleeing and eluding – in connection with the April 26 police pursuit begun in Lostant and ended in Utica.
The chase began when a Lostant police officer tried to stop a black Toyota truck headed south on Route 251 north of Route 18. The driver refused to stop and, after turning around from a dead-end county road, “veered towards” two La Salle County sheriff’s deputies, one of whom was laying stop sticks. The deputy had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck.
The driver, later identified as Tracy, then traveled onto Interstates 39 and 80 and allegedly braked to get the pursuing police cruiser to hit him from behind. The pursuit reached a top speed of 115 mph and Tracy allegedly drove at a school bus but then steered away before impact. The Toyota finally was halted at the Utica exit.
From the time he first was placed in custody, Tracy displayed signs of mental health issues. At his bond hearing, he launched into a mostly incomprehensible rant over big business-government conspiracies, during which he said he has been trailed for 10 years. He demanded he be granted a change of venue to the Supreme Court of the United States in hopes of getting a fair trial.