What may be the longest class B misdemeanor case ever in St. Clair County, which stretched over three years, took a jury less than 10 minutes to decide Tuesday.
Local radio show host Robert “The Grim Reaper of Radio” Romanik was found not guilty of trespassing on property where St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and his wife Erin reside.
“These (expletives) think they can run over anybody,” said Romanik, famous for his profanity-laced radio show attacks on Kern and other top county Democrat officials.
“But I showed them that they can’t,” he said.
Mark Kern did not return a call seeking comment.
Romanik has long viewed the persistent prosecution as politically motivated, especially after a county judge initially threw the case out.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly declined to comment because a special prosecutor handled the case. Kelly had appealed to the Fifth Appellate Court and won and a special state prosecutor was assigned for the misdemeanor trial.
Romanik has financially supported the St. Clair County Freedom Coalition, which is especially active in the Cahokia mayor’s race.
Romanik’s attorney, Clyde Kuehn of Belleville, said he thought Erin Kern and the couple’s sons testified truthfully about a day in December when Romanik allegedly trespassed on property at the South High Street residence, but that the jury still felt that, “it wasn’t a crime.”
During the two-day trial, special prosecutor Charles Zalar, who could not be reached for comment, showed the jury a blow up of a local billboard paid for by Romanik depicting a Christmas card of Kern and showed his wife as a “Sasquatch.” The Christmas message was, “We don’t really care if you have a happy holiday because we are rich idiots.”
The billboard, located just off South Illinois Street near the railroad tracks, currently shows Kern in a clown suit above the message, “Who is the biggest clown in town?” Romanik and his attorney said the jury laughed when this was shown but had otherwise
been somber during the proceeding.
Romanik has said on the day he was arrested he was attempting to get a photo of what he considers to be illegal windows at the Kern residence, a former medical building. Neither Kern could be reached for comment. The Kerns have never been cited for building code violations.
The trial finally was conducted more than three years after Romanik’s arrest, where he was held at the Belleville Police Department and had his vehicle towed.
Kuehn has said he agreed in part to take the case, because Romanik was jailed for a misdemeanor that usually is handled by the issuance of a ticket to appear.
As for why there was a willingness in the prosecutor’s office to persist in a minor misdemeanor for years, Kuehn said it is probably rooted in Romanik’s relentless criticism of Kern and other officials of the powerful Democratic Central Committee that has dominated local politics for decades.
Referring to when the jury laughed, Kuehn said, “That was a moment in the trial that stands as one of my top moments in 40 years of practice.” Even though it was offered by the prosecution, Kuehn said, it backfired.
“It was an epiphany to the jury,” he said. “It made them say, ‘Oh, I see what this is about.’”
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2625.