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Adam Smith

Other Macon County, Illinois exonerations
On October 26, 2015, Macon County Circuit Court Judge Robert Bollinger dismissed several legal actions brought by 32-year-old Adam Smith, one of which accused Macon County, Illinois sheriff’s deputies of burglarizing Smith’s home in Decatur, Illinois. Smith, who had suffered from mental health issues in the past, claimed—without any supporting evidence—that while he was in the Macon County Jail, deputies took his house key from the evidence locker, and used it to enter his home where they stole items and vandalized the property.

The following day, a voice message was left on the telephone in 44-year-old Judge Bollinger’s chambers. The message, which was first heard by Amanda Dillow, the judge’s clerk, said, “Yeah, I was wanting to speak with Bollinger, but obviously that [obscenity] doesn’t want to speak to the public, that corrupt son of a bitch. So, well, he’s committed perjury and stuff and I’ve got all the facts on that, so, well, that’s…on him…if that’s the corruption that he wants to illegally play. So, I’m sure he’ll be hearing more from someone, so all right…I was just trying to give him, you know, another chance, to, you know, reconsider while he’s got a chance to. So I was, yeah, you know, trying to do something correct, trying to go about things legally to get some things taken care of, for which he was obviously trying to cover up, so I’ll take it from there. So, alrighty, thank you. Bye-bye.”

Dillow was alarmed by the message and informed Judge Bollinger. The judge did not immediately listen to the message, but called the Sheriff’s Office. Sergeant Lydell Kallenbach arrived and he and the judge listened to the message. Detective Matt Whetstone came to the chambers and recorded the message on a portable voice recorder. Whetstone recognized the voice as that of Smith. The message machine had recorded the phone number of the caller.

On the following day, October 28, 2015, Whetstone spoke to Smith, who confirmed that it was his phone number. Smith denied making the call. He claimed that he had not had custody of his phone continuously. Smith was arrested on a charge of threatening a public official.

Prior to trial, Smith insisted on representing himself. He was ordered to undergo a mental fitness evaluation. Dr. Rohi Patil examined Smith and declared him fit for trial. Dr. Patil noted that Smith had “a long history of mental illness and noncompliance with treatment….At this time, he demonstrates significant grandiosity as well as persecutory beliefs, but although we find his judgment to be impaired, we do not believe that he is psychotic…We believe that he is fit to stand trial, although we fully expect him to try to impede the process through behavioral disruptions, bizarre motions, and other methods, and to feel fully justified in doing so.”

Smith fulfilled that prediction when he went to trial in May 2016 in Macon County Circuit Court. Judge Karle Koritz from neighboring Dewitt County presided over the jury trial.

During his opening statement, Smith focused on the alleged wrongs committed by Judge Bollinger and law enforcement. He said the evidence would prove Judge Bollinger’s guilt and Smith’s innocence.

Judge Koritz permitted the prosecution to present inmate-request slips filled out by Smith that were addressed to Judge Bollinger. Some contained language similar to the voice message. Some contained Bible verses, one of which referenced throwing judges off a cliff. In one, Smith wrote, “I’m going to prove you guilty of your fraudulent charge and corruption against me, and do my best to get you prosecuted. This is a fact, not a threat, you anti-American communistic piece of [obscenity].” The note included a drawing of a middle finger and the letters “F U!”

Other writings were far more obscene. In one, Smith said he wanted to “ball you up as a bowling ball and strike out the rest of the make-up [meaning Macon] counties’ judges and state’s attorneys, then I’ll make your ass a gutter ball.”

Dillow, the judge’s clerk, testified the message left on the chambers telephone concerned her “because it was sort of a rambling-type of message, undertones of—I don’t really want to say threatening, but it was kind of just unsettling.”

Judge Bollinger testified that the day before the message was left, he dismissed five petitions Smith had filed seeking permission to file petitions based on allegations of misconduct by Macon County law enforcement and correctional officers, the Decatur police department, the state’s attorney, the “residing” judge, and other officials at the Macon County Courthouse.

Essentially, Smith wanted Judge Bollinger to issue an order to arrest someone—no one was named—in the Sheriff’s Office for the burglary and vandalizing of Smith’s home. Smith accused the Decatur police department of covering it up.

Judge Bollinger said he denied the petitions and found them to be an abuse of the court process. He said that he had never received a similar call. “I was concerned because of certain language used in that…message about what this caller’s intentions were directed toward me.” The judge said he feared future bodily harm.

During his closing argument, Smith told the jury that he was merely telling Judge Bollinger he was being given a chance to reconsider his earlier decision before he turned the judge in for “perjury and alleged corruption.” Smith claimed he had a First Amendment right to see redress of grievances.

On May 13, 2016, the jury convicted Smith of threatening a public official. In July 2016, at the sentencing hearing, Judge Koritz found Smith guilty of two counts of criminal contempt for using abusive and derogatory language in court.

When the judge asked Smith if he wanted to make a statement, Smith said, “Yeah. I hope to collapse this whole corruption ring and this whole corrupt court on every corrupted judge, including you.” The judge imposed a combined sentence of 210 days in jail on the contempt convictions.

Smith vented about his right under the Second Amendment to carry a gun and how he had a right to eliminate enemies foreign and domestic.

When Judge Smith asked what Smith meant, Smith said the enemy was the sheriff’s department because it was burglarizing people’s homes and the state’s attorney who was involved in the burglaries.

When Koritz said Smith was a danger to the public, Smith erupted in an obscenity-laden rant, angrily declaring, “May the commission and God destroy every one of you corrupt [obscenities]. The public is in danger of [obscenities] like you, you [obscenity]. I hope they frame your ass.”

Judge Koritz ordered Smith removed from the courtroom and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Smith appealed and in July 2019, the Illinois Appellate Court vacated his conviction for threatening a public official. The court noted that to satisfy the statute, the threat of violence must be a “true threat.”

The court said that the written missives from Smith’s jail cell should not have been allowed into evidence. “Is it clear [Smith] is upset with Judge Bollinger?” the court wrote. “Absolutely. He wants the judge prosecuted for some unspecified corruption related to the charge now pending against him and intends to assist in doing so. The rest is a profane name-calling rant. Nothing in that inmate request form can be interpreted as a ‘true threat.’”

The court noted, “After another scriptural citation, [Smith] again engages in a crude and profane rant against Judge Bollinger along with a discussion of things he would ‘like’ to do with Judge Bollinger, which are all physically impossible and clearly intended metaphorically.”

“There is no question [Smith] was rude and insulting and had a very low opinion of the judge, which was reflected in both the voicemail and the inmate-request slips,” the appellate court said. “However, he was charged with threatening a public official, which required evidence of a ‘true threat.’ The phone message contained no such threat, nor in reality, did the inmate-request slips.”

On February 18, 2020, the charge was dismissed. However, by that time, Smith was back in custody, having been convicted on December 19, 2019 of another charge of threatening a public official. For that conviction, he was sentenced to nine years in prison on June 19, 2020.

Smith filed a petition seeking a certificate of innocence. The petition was granted on September 16, 2020. Smith then filed a petition seeking compensation from the state of Illinois. That petition was still pending in November 2021. Smith also filed a federal lawsuit which was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/17/2021
Last Updated: 6/24/2022
Most Serious Crime:Threats
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2015
Sentence:10 years
Age at the date of reported crime:32
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No