Radio show host Bob Romanik showed up in county court Tuesday in a red, white and blue Uncle Sam costume minus the top hat as a way of reminding the public, "If they can do this to me, they can do this to you."
Romanik, 65, known as the Grim Reaper of Radio for his controversial KZQZ talk show "On The Dark Side," said he is being persecuted, not prosecuted. He said local prosecutors caved into political pressure from top St. Clair County Democrat politicians to persist in a misdemeanor case alleging Romanik trespassed at St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern's residence.
State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said he could not comment because the case is before a special prosecutor. State Appellate Prosecutor Charles Zalar could not be reached comment.
Romanik has sharply criticized Democratic officeholders including Kern during his radio show, often making derogatory personal comments.
"They're letting murderers get away and they're wasting time on this case with me," Romanik said Tuesday.
At issue is whether Romanik broke the law when he briefly stood on property that Erin Kern, the wife of Mark Kern, said was under her control.
Romanik has admitted that he stood with a camera near the Kern residence, a former medical building at 111 S. High St., but has argued that he was actually in a parking lot for an adjacent law firm and left soon after being told to do so.
Erin Kern called police on Dec. 23, 2011, and said she felt threatened and Romanik was arrested about seven hours later after his car was pulled over by Belleville Police. If convicted, he faces a six-month jail sentence and a $1,500 fine.
On Tuesday, Associate Judge Chris Kolker heard arguments from Romanik's lawyer Clyde Kuehn of Belleville and attorney Zalar.
A circuit judge in 2012 tossed the case.
But Kelly appealed the case to the Mount Vernon-based 5th Appellate Court, which ruled the case was dismissed for an incorrect legal reason, and sent it back for trial.
Kuehn said his motion to dismiss the case is based on a constitutional argument that the law under which Romanik was charged is unconstitutionally vague. Kuehn said it states that a person is guilty who "remains" on property after being told to leave can be charged.
"A person has to have a chance to leave," Kuehn said, adding that is what his client did. His motion argues that the existing law is too vague on the meaning of "remains."
Kuehn also said he filed a motion in opposition to the prosecutor's motion to amend the current charge by changing one word, from "owner" to "occupant," referring to Erin Kern. The property is owned by Mark Kern, whose name is on the deed, according to county propery records.
The law for the trespass provision states that the person ordering another to leave must have his or her name on the deed. Kuehn said that prosecutors waited too long, more than 18 months, to elect to make a change.
Kelly, the state's attorney, has said, "Limiting the definition of owner to individuals whose name appears on the deed has significant legal ramifications beyond one simple misdemeanor." If that was provision was strictly enforced, the state has argued, a renter couldn't tell someone to leave the property and a guard at the courthouse could not order an unruly person off the premises.
A hearing on the motions is set for Aug. 27. Trial is set for Sept. 22.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org and 618-239-2625.