Norman McMillan was charged with four methamphetamine-making felonies on Aug. 22, including endangering his 7-year-old son by mixing explosive chemicals while the boy was in the same house.
It's the second time in two years that McMillan, 50, of East Carondelet, who goes by his middle name of Dino, has been accused in St. Clair County Court of making the highly addictive stimulant in the small village of East Carondelet.
Each time, he has been released on bail or electronic monitoring, despite a criminal record spanning three decades. His record includes stints in Florida and Illinois prisons for drug crimes and a 15-year term in federal prison for cocaine distribution connected to a St. Louis outlaw motorcycle club.
On Friday, McMillan was arraigned on a grand jury indictment and pleaded not guilty before Associate Judge Richard Aguirre, who continued McMillan's bail.
On Sept. 11, he appeared before Chief Judge John Baricevic, who reduced McMillan's bail from $900,000 to $100,000 and required that he submit to electronic monitoring and be generally restricted to his mother's home in East Carondelt. He posted the necessary 10 percent and was released.
When McMillan was released from custody that day, he already was on bail from a 2012 felony meth charge in Montgomery County, where the prosecutor was unaware of the new charges.
McMillan's lawyer, Cory Easton, said that his client, "... is going to contest these charges. He's presumed innocent until proven guilty."
McMillan declined to comment.
In 2012, former St. Clair County Judge Mike Cook dismissed 2011 felony methamphetamine charges against McMillan. Cook ruled that police were called to McMillan's East Carondelet home, then on State Street, because of a fire, not because of suspected criminal activity.
McMillan fled and was soon caught and confessed to making the drug, but Cook suppressed all the evidence and dismissed the charges, according to a police report and a court document. Police stated in a report that McMillan told them he was trying to burn evidence of making methamphetamine.
Cook faces his own charges in federal court in East St. Louis, where he is accused of misdemeanor heroin possession and a felony weapons count. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on his own recognizance.
East Carondelet Police Chief Mike Dennis said methamphetamine drug operations pose a threat to the safety of the surrounding residential neighborhood.
"It's not just the user and the manufacturer. It's the chain of supply and the danger the whole thing represents to the community," Dennis said.
"This is a life-altering drug. It is very dangerous to make."
Danger to neighbors
East Carondelet police and sheriff's deputies aided by Illinois State Police raided McMillan's trailer on Illinois Street in East Carondelet on Aug. 22, and arrested him. He was charged with four crimes including three "X" felonies, the most severe in the state's criminal code.
He was also charged with being a felon in possession of ammunition. Police in HazMat suits removed the chemicals.
Neighbors' homes are within about 50 feet of McMillan's mobile home. Escaping fumes or an explosion from the meth labs that police said had been in operation inside the trailer could conceivably have injured neighbors. On Sept. 12, children on bicycles were playing within a few yards of the trailer.
A spokeswoman for Chris Matoush, the prosecutor in Montgomery County where McMillan posted bond last year on a drug charge, said after learning about McMillan's St. Clair County charges through questions posed by the Belleville News-Democrat, he will review the case in his county in regards to bail posted there by McMillan. The next court apperance in this case is a pre-trial conference Oct. 18
Police Chief Dennis questioned how McMillan could be released under any conditions, but Baricevic might not have had any other choice, according to a professor of law and expert on trial procedure.
"What does a defendant have to do before he can be denied bail? That's what you're asking,'" said J. Steven Beckett, of the University of Illinois at Champaign and director of its Trial Advocacy Program. Beckett is an expert on the U.S. Constitution.
Beckett said the Eighth Amendment, the prohibition against excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment, protects the right to pre-trial release even in cases where the defendant, such as McMillan, has a long record of felony convictions.
"Yes, the law can protect the public but only in cases involving certain heinous cases. Aggravated battery of a police officer, attempted murder, murder. Heinous crimes like that. And that's not the case here," he said.
"I think the judge made the right decision. ... Do judges talk back to themselves at night when somebody does something they shouldn't have when out on bond? Sure they do."
Beckett defended U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson's decision to deny release on bond to Sean McGilvery, who is charged with heroin distribution linked to the deaths of two women at a house in Fairview heights. Cook, the former St. Clair County judge, was arrested outside a 38th Street home in Belleville where McGilvery then resided. McGilvery's mother said that Cook was a friend of the family.
Beckett, responding to questions concerning the courthouse drug scandal, emphasized that overdose deaths were allegedly involved with the decision not to release McGilvery.
Beckett said a landmark legal decision governing a defendant's release on bond involved Mafia boss Tony "Fat Tony" Salerno, who sought pre-trial release in 1987 in New York City. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed a federal appeals court decision in Salerno's case that contended "no set of circumstances" exist under the Constitution that allowed a denial of bail.
The high court, while reversing the appeals court, strictly limited the conditions when bail could be denied, including to protect the public from "heinous" crimes only. These included 35 counts of racketeering against Salerno, who was held until trial, when he was convicted.
Dennis, the East Carondelet police chief, said his men were familiar with McMillan from previous contact involving alleged methamphetamine-making that resulted in the September 2011 charges that were dismissed by former county judge Cook.
"It's a great concern because of the threat to community safety," he said of alleged meth making by McMillan.
During this confrontation with McMillan, one of his officers spotted him outside his home at the time on State Street during a fire that police suspected was caused by methamphetamine-making chemicals.
Hearing about the fire, Sgt. Rodney Stone drove to McMillan's home and asked him about some pieces of aluminum foil he spotted on the floor mats of his truck, which he said looked like debris from packaging chunks of methamphetamine crystals.
According to a police report, McMillan drove off and left Stone shouting for him to stop.
McMillan was apprehended within minutes, and two buckets of methamphetamine liquid were found in his pickup, the report said. McMillan also gave a statement, according to documents provided under the Freedom of Information Act. A report of questioning of McMillan by Illinois State Police Todd Warren stated that the suspect:
* Described how he used "crushed pseudophedrine pills" obtained legally at pharmacies to make methamphetamine.
* Said that an object he tossed from the truck while fleeing from Stone was a homemade "cook container," and described where police could find it.
* "Explained his process for making methamphetamine."
* Said that bits of white powder found on the aluminum foil noticed by Stone, was "methamphetamine that he had made."
In another case, in Randolph County in January 2006, McMillan led a sheriff's deputy on a chase that began at 2:45 a.m. and reached "90 to 100" mph before McMillan's pickup crashed into a ditch, according to court records.
McMillan crawled out of the passenger-side window but dropped to the ground when Deputy Eric Hamilton, pointing his service weapon, ordered him to stop. McMillan received a 30-month sentence for "aggravated fleeing" and methamphetamine possession.