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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 — The state was ordered Friday to give to the defense the names of people who may have been involved with John Y. Butler's alleged theft of public money from the city-owned arena. 

Butler's firm, Central Illinois Arena Management (CIAM), operated the former U.S. Cellular Coliseum for 10 years before he opted not to renew an agreement with the city in 2016. Butler and four other CIAM officials were charged in September with more than 100 counts of theft, money laundering, wire fraud and tax evasion.

At a hearing Friday, defense lawyer Steven Beckett argued Butler is entitled to know the names of those the state believes may be involved in the 22 theft counts that charge Butler "or one for whose conduct the defendant was legally responsible" of stealing more than $1.1 million from the downtown arena.

Butler is being charged under an accountability theory that attempts to hold him liable for the conduct of others under his supervision.

The names of associates were among additional details Beckett sought from the state based on what he considers overly broad wording in the indictments.

"This is not your run-of-the-mill case," said Beckett, explaining that if Butler is being held accountable for the acts of his corporation, the additional information will help him prepare a defense.

Assistant State's Attorney Brad Rigdon argued the request is "essentially asking that the state present its evidence to the defense." 

Judge Robert Freitag ruled the names of those who may have played a part in the alleged theft should be disclosed, adding that requiring more information "is getting into the area of requiring the state to lay out its case."

The defense is not entitled to records related to an Illinois State Police investigator's contact with federal and state prosecutors about the case, according to the judge.

The defense claims an ISP agent approached the U.S. attorney's office in Peoria about filing charges against Butler and others. In seeking records between the agent and federal agencies, including the FBI and Internal Revenue Service as well as local police agencies, Beckett argued that any potential bias by the agency may be discovered.

Disclosure of such information is not required under the law, said First Assistant State's Attorney Adam Ghrist, noting that contact between law enforcement and prosecutors routinely occurs during investigations.

The judge also denied a state motion to disqualify one of Butler's lawyers from working on the case. The state argued that Bloomington lawyer Scott Kording's representation of Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner on a separate legal matter put the lawyer in a potential conflict of interest.  

But the fact that Renner has not been disclosed as a state witness dispels the state's allegations over Kording's potential questioning of Renner at Butler's trial, said Beckett.

Several more pretrial motions will be heard April 3, including a defense motion to dismiss the charges against Butler.

Also charged in the case are former CIAM Assistant Manager Bart Rogers; Kelly W. Klein, assistant general manager for finance; Jay C. Laesch, ex-finance director of BMI Concessions; and Paul Grazer, former food and beverage director for CIAM.

Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny


McLean County Courts Reporter

McLean County courts reporter for The Pantagraph.

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