Crime

Man says religion allows sex with children. Jury will decide if he’s dangerous.

Police monitor transient they say advocated sex with children as a religious rite

Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons and Madison County Sheriff John Lakin talk about the arrest of James Lopes, who was charged with disturbing the peace. Police were monitoring Lopes after they said comments were made online about sex wit
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Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons and Madison County Sheriff John Lakin talk about the arrest of James Lopes, who was charged with disturbing the peace. Police were monitoring Lopes after they said comments were made online about sex wit

The trial for James Lopes began Tuesday with jury selection in Madison County court. The jury will decide whether Lopes is sexually dangerous and should be institutionalized for public safety.

Lopes unsettled many metro-east residents last 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, regarding cards he allegedly handed out in April 2016 that directed people to his videos.

He has also been charged with several misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and trespassing, 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. He was indigent prior to arrest and has refused legal counsel, representing himself throughout the process.

The felony charges are on hold pending the current issue, which is a trial to determine whether Lopes should be declared sexually dangerous. If the jury rules against him, 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 released.

Jury selection began Tuesday afternoon, with more than 40 potential jurors called. The jury was selected after about three hours of questioning. Shortly after the jury was selected, however, one of the jurors disclosed an unavoidable conflict with scheduling. After conferring with Lopes and Nolan, Madison County Associate Judge Neil Schroeder dismissed the juror and will seat an alternate juror, leaving only one alternate juror.

Lopes declared he had a motion prior to bringing in potential jury members. Nolan objected, stating that all motions were supposed to be filed prior to trial. The motion asked permission to enter the Bible into evidence, and to dismiss evidence from prior cases and testimony from two witnesses.

Schroeder ruled against his motion, stating that Lopes had plenty of time to object to evidence and testimony prior to the beginning of the trial. He reserved judgment on entering the Bible as evidence.

Two psychiatrists have examined Lopes and issued their findings to the court, but those findings have not yet to be made public.

Lopes had appeared at previous hearings unshaven, shackled and in prison stripes. He had previously requested permission to get a haircut and be loaned a suit for trial, and to attend unshackled so that he could “look presentable for a jury.” On Tuesday, he appeared in a shirt and tie and was clean-shaven.

Previously Lopes had requested a change of venue due to extensive news coverage, a private investigator at the state’s expense to interrogate potential witnesses and various motions to suppress interviews and dismiss the case. All have been denied.

The trial will continue Jan. 18.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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