EFFINGHAM — David A. Koester told a judge on Wednesday that he regrets filing a false report in December about being shot by someone else, triggering a massive search in the Little Wabash River bottoms west of Effingham.
"I've ruined my life by doing this," said Koester, 22, who pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing justice in Judge Kimberly Koester's courtroom.
Judge Koester and David Koester are not related.
David Koester's dog, Kyloh, went missing after the incident, also triggering an outpouring of community support and concern. The family pet was found days later near Shelbyville.
In exchange for the guilty plea, Koester was sentenced to 30 months probation, ordered to complete 100 public service hours, and pay $5,000 in restitution to the Effingham County Sheriff's Department. He was also fined $500 and ordered to write a letter of apology to the sheriff's department.
Because this is his first felony conviction, Koester was also ordered to undergo DNA testing at his own expense, a cost of $250.
Charges of possessing a firearm with a revoked Firearm Owners Identification Card and filing a false 911 complaint were dropped.
State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said in court that, had the case gone to trial, Effingham County Det. Darin Deters would have testified that Koester called 911 on Dec. 19, saying that he was walking his dog in the river bottoms near the TREC trail west of Effingham when he was shot. Kibler said the report sparked a search involving several agencies, led by the sheriff's department.
Kibler said that Deters noted some inconsistencies in Koester's story — including that the .22 caliber gunshot wound to the young man's leg appeared to be self-inflicted. Eventually, Kibler said, Koester confessed to filing the false report.
"He thought he would get in trouble if he was caught having a gun without a FOID card," Kibler said. Deters eventually found the .22 caliber Ruger handgun that Koester had been carrying that day.
"Do you realize the waste of community resources that you made?" Judge Koester asked.
David Koester said the felony conviction dealt a shattering blow to his future.
"I was going to join the military, but that's not possible now," he said.
Koester said he has been doing intermittent work for a power washing contractor, but was also looking for a regular job.
Koester declined comment after the hearing. Kibler said after the hearing that he thought the deal was appropriate.
"He's a convicted felon now and he will be paying restitution to the sheriff's department," he said. "Hopefully, he can learn from this and move on. It's a sad situation all around."
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, at email@example.com, or on Twitter @EDNBGrimes.