Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 29, 2013

Accuser pleads in beating, but denies part

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

---- — The last of three area men accused of participating in the racially motivated beating of a black man a year ago pleaded guilty in Effingham County Circuit Court Thursday.

Justin R. Antrim, 37, of Teutopolis, pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct in connection with the March 4, 2012, beating of Trenton Smith in and outside Tip’s Corner Tavern in Altamont.

In exchange for the guilty plea on a misdemeanor, four felony charges against Antrim were dropped. Instead, he will receive credit for 10 days already served in jail and pay Smith $9.416 in restitution for medical expenses incurred in the attack.

Antrim and two other men, William Coleman of Watson and Kevin Gasper of Effingham, had been charged with aggravated battery, mob action and hate crimes in connection with the Smith beating.

Coleman, considered to be the primary assailant, is already serving a 5-year prison term following his guilty plea last summer. Gasper pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct earlier this month.

Both Gasper and Antrim have repeatedly denied participating in the Smith beating. Antrim attorney Scott Ealy said in a prepared statement his client only pleaded guilty as a “compromise in consideration of likely future legal expenses and the risk — albeit slight — of a future felony legal trial.”

Antrim continues to deny any role in the beating, Ealy said.

The attorney added that witnesses at the scene would have been able to corroborate Antrim’s denial.

“Substantial evidence supported Justin Antrim’s account of non-criminal behavior on his part, including the statements of witnesses,” Ealy said.

While the criminal case has been resolved, Smith is suing all three defendants, as well as Tip’s and its owners, alleging the beating caused permanent disabilities. That case is still pending.

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