Judge blocks Joliet murder defendant’s release from jail

Amari Morgan

A judge denied the release of a man charged with murder in the 2016 killing of a 62-year-old man in Joliet Township.

Judge Vincent Cornelius on Thursday said the incident involving the death of Robert Bielec was “exceptionally brutal” and found that Amari Morgan, 25, of Joliet poses a threat to the community if released from the Will County jail.

“Particularly given this happened on another person’s property late at night,” Cornelius said.

Morgan was charged with first-degree murder in Bielec’s death. Morgan allegedly killed him with a baseball bat on Jan. 7, 2016, in the driveway of his residence in the 1700 block of Houston Avenue in Joliet Township.

Last year, Cornelius found Morgan’s brother, Blaique Morgan, 26, of Joliet accountable for the actions of his brother and consequently guilty of Bielec’s death.

Amari Morgan has been in jail since 2016, and his case has not yet gone to trial. A future trial date has been scheduled for Jan. 29.

His attorney, Jeff Tomczak, requested his client’s release from jail under the provisions of the SAFE-T Act, which went into effect on Sept. 18. The act eliminates cash bail and allows the release of criminal defendants from jail unless they are a flight risk, a threat to any person connected to the case or the community.

Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Alyson Wozniak said the state’s evidence against Amari Morgan is extremely strong, he’s charged with committing a violent crime and there are witnesses who would fear retribution after testifying in his brother’s trial last year.

Tomczak said Amari Morgan, who was 17 at the time of Bielec’s death, grew up in jail and he has no past record of violence or criminal activity. He rejected the argument that Amari Morgan is a threat to any witnesses or the community.

“That’s a little over the top,” he said.

He said the case against his client is “very different” than the Blaique Morgan case. He said there’s evidence in the case that Amari Morgan was protecting his family in the incident.

Tomczak also argued there is no allegation that Amari Morgan posed a flight risk and Cornelius could put him on GPS monitoring, as well as home confinement. He said Amari Morgan has never been known to possess weapons, such as guns and knives.