Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 22, 2013

Lack of evidence leads to lesser charge in hate crime

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

---- — One of the three men accused of participating in the racially motivated beating of a man outside an Altamont bar a year ago pleaded guilty Thursday to a lesser charge — after a prosecutor admitted in open court he didn’t have enough evidence to get a conviction on the original charges.

Kevin L. Gasper, 41, of Effingham, pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct in connection with the beating of Trenton Smith in and outside Tip’s Corner Tavern in Altamont last March 4. Gasper had been charged with aggravated battery, hate crime and mob action in connection with the Smith beating, but Special Prosecutor David Rands told Judge Ericka Sanders Thursday he didn’t have the evidence to convict Gasper on those charges.

“There is no evidence that Mr. Gasper ever made contact with Mr. Smith,” Rands said.

Sanders sentenced Gasper to 30 days in county jail, but gave him credit for time served after he was originally arrested. While Gasper was fined $385, Sanders waived payment of the fine for time served and said she believes the bond he posted after serving 77 days in county jail would cover any court costs — and probably give him some money left over.

William Coleman, considered to be the instigator of the fight, is already serving a five-year prison term for his role in the beating. A third defendant, Justin Antrim, 38, of Teutopolis, had a new court date set for 10 a.m. April 23.

Antrim attorney Scott Ealy said he was close to a deal with prosecutors. But Ealy said he’s taking a job with the state’s attorney’s office on April 1 and withdrew from the case.

Antrim’s original attorney, Bryan Kibler, had to withdraw after he was elected state’s attorney’s last fall.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.