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Crime & Courts

Man gets probation, fine for harassing jurors

On Wednesday, a rural Ottawa man was put on probation and fined for harassing jurors almost two years ago.

Richard M. Thompson, 66, was sentenced by Associate Judge Michael Jansz to three years' probation, to pay $10,900 fine and, within one year, perform 300 hours of public service. Thompson was also ordered to undergo anger management evaluation.

"Mr. Thompson has done great things with his life. He had a bad day. It was an isolated incident," Jansz observed as to why he didn't send Thompson to prison.

Thompson harassed jurors outside the La Salle County Courthouse, after his son was found guilty in June 2016 of pointing a laser-scoped pellet gun at a deputy sheriff. His son went to prison for 11 months, before his conviction was overturned on appeal.

According to testimony Wednesday from a deputy sheriff who was present outside the courthouse in 2016, Thompson called jurors an obscenity, said he'd "remember most of their faces" and appeared to take photos of them with his cellphone, but the deputy wasn't sure. Thompson also uttered an obscenity at the deputy.

Three people testified Wednesday to the charitable works done by Thompson, with one woman saying Thompson has donated money on a number of occasions to help those in need, such as homeless and victimized children, as well as a man with terminal cancer and an elderly woman.

The other character witness said he was homeless last year, but Thompson took him in and helped him get back on his feet.

Descriptions of Thompson ranged from, "He's one of the most kind-hearted people around" to "He does good for goodness sake" to "He's a wonderful guy."

Prosecutor Patrick Herrmann wanted prison for Thompson, noting jurors are the "cornerstone," but also the "weakest link of the judicial system" and so must be protected. Herrmann also said in reference to the harassment, "We can't live by the feud."

One of Thompson's attorneys, Louis Bertrand, dismissed Thompson's words to the jurors as "untoward remarks," adding the jurors were not victims.

Thompson himself addressed the judge, saying he was distraught the day in question, not only because his son was found guilty and could go to prison, but because he had urged his son to disregard the prosecution's offer of a plea deal and go to trial. Thompson added the pellet gun his son allegedly pointed, was unloaded and didn't even belong to his son.

Thompson further said his yelling was directed at sheriff's deputies, not jurors, except for one juror he said smirked at him. Thompson said he was sorry.

Thompson was supposed to have been sentenced two weeks ago, but question arose at that time as to how many prior felonies were on his record. Sentencing was put off until Wednesday, when it was determined he had one, for marijuana.

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