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In this Sept. 29, 2017, file photo, John Y. Butler, left, president of Central Illinois Arena Management, follows Urbana lawyer Steven Beckett, as they leave court after Butler pleaded not guilty to taking more than $1 million in city money, money laundering, wire fraud and tax-related charges.


BLOOMINGTON — Accusations that John Y. Butler stole money from the city during the decade he managed the city-owned U.S. Cellular Coliseum are better suited for civil rather criminal court, Butler's lawyer argued in new court filings.

The criminal prosecution of Butler, owner of Central Illinois Arena Management, for offenses allegedly linked to the firm's contract with the city "would constitute a miscarriage of justice," attorney Steven Beckett argued in his motion to dismiss 44 charges filed in September.

In one of several motions filed Thursday, Beckett contended the dispute between the city and Butler over how arena money was handled, including commissions on food and beverage sales, should be resolved through civil litigation.

According to the motion, Butler relied on annual audits of arena operations to detect any errors in the fiscal management of the sports and entertainment venue now known as Grossinger Motors Arena. Monthly meetings between CIAM, former city manager David Hales and city finance staff members produced no discrepancies, said the court filing. 

"In the 10-year history of the business relationship, the city of Bloomington never once requested consultation, mediation, or arbitration regarding any financial issue under the management agreement," Butler's lawyer argued.

The defense also leveled a challenge to the constitutionality of the state's wire fraud law as being overly broad in it ability to ensnare innocent conduct.

Butler is charged with theft, wire fraud, money laundering, filing false sales tax returns and conspiracy to commit tax evasion. Several charges relate to commissions Butler allegedly withheld from food and drink sales operated by BMI Concessions.

In their pretrial motions, Butler's defense team launches attacks on alleged errors in how state police handled the investigation, including the confiscation of more than $30,000 from Butler's bank accounts. 

In response to a December defense motion, an ISP special agent ordered CEFCU to remove the hold placed on seven bank accounts, including Butler's sons' checking and savings accounts, his health savings account and other accounts not linked to the criminal case.

The ISP then changed the order freezing the remaining funds and ordered the bank to turn over about $31,000 to the state police, funds the state claims are linked to the criminal charges. Beckett argues that the warrant used to seize the money was unconstitutional.

Beckett said Friday he is not aware of a similar case where a defendant's money was taken from a bank account by state police pending the outcome of a case.

Four other former arena officials also face charges stemming from the same state police investigation that began with the city's scrutiny of financial records in early 2016 after Butler did not renew his agreement with the city.

Bart Rogers, CIAM's former general manager, is charged with theft of government funds. Kelly W. Klein, assistant manager of finance at the time, is charged with theft and money laundering.

Paul Grazer, former food and beverage director of CIAM, is accused of theft, money laundering, and tax evasion. Former BMI Concessions finance director Jay Laesch is charged with theft, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit tax evasion. 

All five defendants are free on bond.

Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny



Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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