Prosecutors say he’s sexually dangerous. A jury will decide

James Lopes
James Lopes

James Lopes will appear before a jury in December for a trial on whether he is sexually dangerous and should be locked up.

A judge on Wednesday scheduled jury selection to begin Dec. 6.

Lopes, 40, unsettled many metro-east residents earlier this year with a series of online videos shot in a Collinsville park, in which he promoted sexual relations with children as a religious rite. He has been charged with three counts of grooming, a Class 4 felony, in connection with cards he allegedly handed out in April that directed people to his videos.

He has also been charged with several misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and trespass, alleging that he approached young girls, declared he was on a “mini date” with one of them, and asked a 7-year-old girl, “Hi Princess, are you looking for your prince? I’m right here.”

Lopes has been in custody at the Madison County Jail ever since, held in lieu of $75,000 bail. Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons has also filed a petition to have Lopes declared a sexually dangerous person, a proceeding that will take place before the criminal charges.

If found sexually dangerous, Lopes would be committed to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections in a facility designed for sex offender treatment, according to prosecutor Kathleen Nolan. He would have to successfully complete treatment to the point where his risk of further offense lowers enough for him to be managed in the community, Nolan said. That would be an indefinite time of incarceration, she said.

On Wednesday, Lopes appeared before Madison County Associate Judge Neil Schroeder to set a trial date on the petition for a determination of “sexually dangerous person.” That determination requires a full trial, not just a judge’s order, Nolan said, though it could be done as a bench trial or before a jury.

Lopes has opted to represent himself throughout the proceedings and has requested a jury. This first trial will be solely focused on the question of whether Lopes is sexually dangerous, not on the criminal charges currently keeping him in custody.

Two psychiatrists have examined Lopes and issued their findings to the court, though those findings have not yet been made public. However, Lopes tried to make a motion Wednesday to dismiss the doctors’ reports, stating that they were based on “false information.”

Schroeder said he would not accept oral motions at a pretrial hearing, and instructed Lopes to file any motions in writing prior to the trial.

Lopes also requested that the public defender’s office provide him with a suit and tie for trial. Lopes is a transient, and has thus far appeared in court unshaven, shackled and in prison stripes.

“I need to look presentable for a jury,” he said. “This is the first jail I’ve seen that doesn’t provide haircuts unless you have money. I’m indigent.”

Schroeder said he would speak to the public defender’s office about providing Lopes with a suit, and to the sheriff’s department about arranging a haircut for him before the trial.

Lopes requested that he not be chained or shackled during the trial, and Schroeder assured him he will not be restrained in any way at that time.

Lopes also has a motion pending to allow him to access the internet. He has stated that he has evidence in his email accounts and online postings that he will need for his defense. That motion is pending.

Gibbons said allowing Lopes internet access would be problematic, and not just because much of Lopes’ alleged offenses involved the internet — the jail does not currently have online access for prisoners. “In this particular case, that’s a logistical nightmare,” Gibbons said. His office is opposing the motion.

Lopes’ previous motions have included a request for change of venue due to the extensive news coverage; a request for a private investigator at state expense to interrogate potential witnesses in Collinsville and Edwardsville; suppressing his interviews with police officers; and various motions to dismiss. All have been denied.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald