Shooting trial off to rocky start with a reluctant witness

Chicago
By Chicago 5 Min Read

URBANA — Despite a promise of immunity from prosecution for any criminal activity he might have been involved in, a Champaign man had difficulty remembering what he told a police officer about being shot at in 2020 in northwest Champaign while his children were with him.

Given Javon Jones’ reluctance to testify against Robert Grady, 29, for aggravated discharge of a firearm, a Champaign County jury will have to decide if there is enough other evidence to convict Grady of that crime and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.

Grady’s jury trial started Tuesday before Judge Matt Lee and is expected to continue through Thursday.

“Keep the kids out of this,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Larson in his opening statement.

Larson explained that Jones sent that message to Grady just minutes after the Suburban that Jones was driving had been shot at in the intersection of Bradley Avenue and Duncan Road on Sept. 1, 2020.

No one was hurt by gunfire, but a child’s car seat in the Suburban was hit by a bullet.

The prosecutor said the evidence would show that Grady, who was in a U-Haul van, was firing at Jones in retaliation for an earlier shooting in which a friend of Jones allegedly shot at Grady. Jones, a father of five children ages 6 and under, had children in the Suburban, Larson said.

Grady’s attorney, Jeff Cisco of Champaign, said the state would not be able to produce anyone who could identify his client as the man who fired at a Suburban from a U-Haul van.

Jones is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for unlawful use of ammunition by a felon stemming from another incident in September 2020 and told the judge he wouldn’t testify.

But the judge ordered him to after Larson said Jones was not involved in any activity on that day for which he could be prosecuted and that the state couldn’t use his statements to prosecute him for other crimes.

Despite that, Jones said he wasn’t in the Suburban on Sept. 1, 2020.

At least seven times during his brief testimony, he told Larson he did not remember previous statements he made to Champaign police detective Nick Krippel in which he said Grady shot at him from the U-Haul because a friend of Jones had earlier shot at Grady.

In other testimony, a witness testified that while driving south on Duncan, he heard several gunshots then saw a U-Haul van that had been westbound on Bradley make an erratic turn to the south and end up behind him on Duncan. The rental van eventually overtook him.

The witness said he was confident that the shots he heard and the gunpowder he smelled came from the U-Haul, which had two men in it.

Champaign police found three shell casings for a 9 mm gun in the intersection of Bradley and Duncan. They found the U-Haul stopped in the 800 block of Maple Park Drive.

Former Champaign police Sgt. Dave Griffet testified he was approaching the van when he saw a man in the front door of a home who shut the door when he saw the officers.

Running around the house, Griffet saw a man run out the back door toward the backyard of a house on Duncan Road and get away from police. Griffet said that while he did not know the man by name, he identified Grady in court as the man he saw that day.

In the man’s path of flight, police found a gun.

In opening statements, Larson said state crime lab officials are expected to testify that the 9 mm shell casings came from the tossed gun and that Grady’s DNA was on the gun.

In his opening statement, Cisco said DNA on the gun was not proof that Grady had fired it that day.

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