BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington lawyer's request to end his work on behalf of a suspect in a 2016 murder and kidnapping case was denied Friday after a judge ordered him to remain on the case.
Gary Morris said he filed the request to leave the case after Danny Smith Jr., 29, of Peoria filed a complaint against him with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The ARDC complaint was disclosed at a January hearing in which an anticipated plea deal to resolve the case was set aside.
Morris said he believed his client wanted to replace him based on the paperwork filed with the state disciplinary board.
Smith is charged with murder in the December 2016 death of 41-year-old Maunds Bryant. The 29-year-old suspect from East Peoria also is charged with home invasion, aggravated kidnapping, residential burglary and aggravated vehicular hijacking in connection with the incident that allegedly led to Bryant's death in a Peoria hospital.
Details of Smith's complaint with the state commission were not disclosed but the suspect told Judge Robert Freitag he filed the claim because the lawyer "wasn't doing anything" on the case.
Smith said he believes the lawyer "is being vindictive because of my complaint," but he does not want a new attorney. Smith, who previously said he had consulted with a Chicago lawyer about taking over the case, said he hoped the complaint would spur Morris to action.
The judge ruled Morris should remain on the case that is set for a May 7 jury trial.
Smith is accused of taking Bryant and Bryant's stepfather at gunpoint from their home in north Normal to a home in Peoria and demanding a ransom from their family. During the kidnapping, Bryant, who had ALS, fell and suffered a head injury, according to police.
Once in Peoria, the stepfather managed to escape and summon help as Bryant lay in a basement without medical care. Smith was arrested as he ran from the residence.
Bryant died the following day in the hospital.
Smith remains in custody in lieu of posting $200,035.
Kidnapping charges also are pending in Peoria County.