Jury convicts Champaign man of 2 charges, acquits on another in high-speed chase

By Chicago 5 Min Read

URBANA — A Champaign man was convicted Wednesday on two charges related to his involvement in a high-speed police chase that wound through a large area of Champaign-Urbana earlier this year.

It took a Champaign County jury less than an hour to find Oshae Cotton, 26, who listed an address in the 2000 block of Cynthia Drive, guilty on charges of being an armed habitual criminal and aggravated fleeing and eluding police.

The jury acquitted him on another count of being an armed habitual criminal.

The conviction stemmed from a May 17 incident that began when Ahznae Vassar called police at 7:24 p.m. to report shots fired in the 2000 block of Cynthia.

On the stand Tuesday, Vassar testified that she had been driving in her car with a man in that area when she encountered her boyfriend, Trayson Washington, who was with Cotton. She said she told the man who was with her to leave, and then the back window of her car was broken. She said she called police because she thought Cotton had shot it out.

Washington testified Wednesday that he was angry that his girlfriend was in a car with another man and had thrown a rock at the car.

Officers who responded to the call began pursuing a vehicle they said was driven by Cotton with two other people inside. Washington was not among them.

Police said the car headed east on Interstate 74 to the Cunningham Avenue exit in Urbana, then wound through parts of Urbana, unincorporated Champaign County and Champaign before stopping near the intersection of South Neil Street and Windsor Road in south Champaign.

Kristina Trock, one of the seven officers the state called to the stand, testified that she was driving 112 mph on I-74 while chasing the vehicle, but the car was still pulling ahead. Officers also found two guns on the ground that police said were linked to the vehicle’s flight path.

During closing arguments Wednesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Joel Fletcher argued that Cotton was the driver of the fleeing vehicle because two officers involved in the chase testified that they saw the driver was a Black man wearing dark clothing and Cotton was the only person who emerged from the car wearing dark clothing.

Fletcher also argued that Cotton kept up the chase because he was throwing the two firearms out the window. Fletcher noted that evidence strongly linked Cotton’s DNA to the grip and magazine of one of the guns.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Jeffrey Cisco argued that the state’s case was full of reasonable doubt, as officers involved in the chase testified they could not confidently identify his client as the fleeing car’s driver and could have been mistaken about what they saw the driver wearing.

Cisco also noted that one of the guns found in the vehicle’s flight path did not have any of Cotton’s DNA on it and neither gun had his client’s fingerprints.

Referencing testimony in which an officer could not recall if he wore gloves while swabbing one of the guns, Cisco argued that the officer could have inadvertently contaminated it with Cotton’s DNA because he had swabbed Cotton’s hands for gunshot residue shortly beforehand.

Cisco also cited the testimony from a DNA scientist who said the proper procedure is to wear a mask and different gloves for each object that’s swabbed.

Cotton was charged with two counts of being an armed habitual criminal due to prior felonies and alleged possession of both guns found in the flight path.

The one witness Cisco called to the stand, a crime-scene technician, testified that no bullet casings were found in or around the vehicle when the chase began.

Cotton is set to be sentenced Dec. 27. He faces six to 30 years on the charge of being an armed habitual criminal and one to six years for the aggravated fleeing.

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