Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Home » Uncategorized » Jury Duty Reveals UTHS Violence

Jury Duty Reveals UTHS Violence

I was on Twitter…or was it Facebook? Whatever it was, I read David Burke’s comment that he had just concluded a week on jury duty, and I was in Chicago and the words JURY DUTY flashed before my eyes,

I had been sent a summons for jury duty, but I totally forgot about it…didn’t submit it…didn’t remember where it was.

I called home from Chicago to the spouse, who was told to look on the desk for signs of a jury summons. He located same and sent it in and, following my return from visiting the new Chicago Modern Art Gallery (10 years in the making) and other such trips, I called and got a message on the phone that my number was, indeed, “up.” I had to report at Monday (today) at 8:30 a.m. to the fourth floor of the Rock Island County Jail building.

This, of course, is about an hour and a half earlier than I would prefer to get up, and would require me to be up no later than 7:30 a.m. I asked my husband, “Should I set my alarm, or will you wake me up?”

He promised to wake me up at 7:30 a.m. Instead, he woke me up at 6:30 a.m., a time of day when it is best not to do this. (He said he “misread” the clock; next time I will use the alarm clock.)

So, I trotted on over to the jail and parked fully a block away in the parking lot behind the old County Office building, because there is no parking anywhere near the new jail building. I took: my jury summons, 3 magazines, a sweater, an insulated bottle with ice in it, 2 cans of Diet Dr. Pepper for much-needed caffeine input, a pair of heels that went with my understated, black-on-black outfit. I left my cell phone in the car, as instructed.

Up to the fourth floor I went, with my large bag and my large purse. About 50 people were gathered, and, after a rather long wait, during which only half of the light panels in the room worked (7 were out and the attendant was calling for help in replacing the bulbs or light rods or whatever they run on), I sat and read my “People” magazine. A man next to me asked if he could read one of my other magazines. It was hot in the room at that time. As the day went on, it would become cold in the room and I would lend my black-and-white sweater to a woman named Mary Leach, who was the sister of the former Mayor of Moline, Stan Leach.
Mary and I turned out to be spectacularly bad candidates for this particular jury, because both of us had close ties or were teachers.

The case involved a young man named Trent Mooney who was charged with assault for decking two teachers at United Township High School. One of the teachers was David Maccabee; one was a counselor, Patrick Green, whom, the initial complaint stated, Mr. Mooney had “struck in the face.”

Now began the division of the jury pool into smaller groups. My group was the petit jury afternoon after the 12-member jury was selected, and the group would have to return on the morrow to render a verdict. Still, it would chew up 2 full days of time.

The other group was taken somewhere else…the Court House, I think, and they would be Grand Jurors who could expect their trial experience to last a week. This did not thrill me, as a prospect, as I have airline tickets to go to New York City on the 27th and that would be cutting it close, as I plan to drive to Chicago a day or so in advance of my flight time,

Now began the questioning of we prospective jurors. Certain numbers were called to take a seat in the jury box. I was not among the first eight. The questions seemed rather dim (“Have you ever known a teacher?”) Who among us has NOT known a teacher? This question came from State’s Attorney (prosecution) assistant Margaret Osborne, who would be the prosecution. An attorney named David Hoffman represented the defense. Mr. Hoffman has curly white hair and seemed rather full of himself. He did make fun of the question I just mentioned, and he seemed sharper than the opposition, but, having said that, he let a woman who taught for 34 years in the Moline Public Schools remain on the jury, while kicking off a man who worked for Deere who once knew someone named Patrick Green. (It was determined that, through sheer age alone, they could not be one and the same individual).

I was troubled by the prospect that the David Maccabee in question might be the band director my daughter had been First Chair Alto Saxophone for. I even accompanied a few of his students at contest(s), but I was not the most active band parent, and I was not sure if he would remember me. For my part, I remembered him by face, but the name did not immediately ring a bell. I asked the bailiff if that person was the instrumental music director at UTHS. He did not know, but he asked the prosecution attorney, and they were one and the same, so I knew I must recuse myself, when asked.

I was called to the jury box, and, when they asked if anyone knew the individuals involved, raised my hand and said I knew Mr. Maccabee. The Judge (Michael Meara or O”Meara) then asked me if I was ‘close” to Mr. Maccabee, and I said it had been four years since my daughter had been in his band. He then asked if I could be impartial and consider the defendant to be innocent until I heard the evidence, and I answered that, as a 36-year-veteran teacher, I could not. I don’t think hitting your teachers (two of them) in the face is a good way to resolve conflict. I don’t condone teachers hitting students, either. When I said this, the Judge immediately excused me.

A different person took my seat and the questioning continued, with me in the courtroom as an observer. Then, we were excused for a 2-hour lunch (11:30 to 1:30 p.m.) and Mary and I went to Bennigan’s, where we shared our thoughts on students hitting teachers in the face, which were remarkably similar in nature. (Summary: not a good idea).

We returned to the holding area at 1:00 and were the first ones back, so I decided to go up to the 5th floor where testimony was being given. Instructing Mary to tell them I had gone to the rest room if asked, I left my gear in the holding area and went back upstairs to the courtroom, where the trial was now in progress and Mr. Maccabee was testifying. The bailiff kicked me out, because I was supposed to stay in the holding area until released. I returned to Floor 4 and, as I entered, learned that we were all free to go…the jury on the other side of the street had been selected.

I then went back to the 5th floor, now a free woman, and sat in on Mr. Maccabee’s testimony about the altercation, which did, indeed, seem to involve “policing” the halls of UTHS. Mr. Maccabee was saying that Mr. Mooney was trying to get to Mr. Lopez, who had been “taunting” him verbally.

Question from Defense Attorney Hoffman: “What was he attempting to do?

Mr. Maccabee’s answer: “He wanted me out of the way.  There’s no question about that at all.”

Mr. Hoffman: “If you had been disengaged and gotten out of the way, would he (Mr. Mooney) have gone for you?”

Mr. Maccabee: “No.”

Mr. Hoffman: “Did you continue into the Art Room?”

Mr. Maccabee: “Yes.”

After this, Mr. Maccabee was excused from the stand and strode right by me, seated in the back pew.

I got up and followed him into the hall, expecting to share a few words about my daughter, his former First Chair Alto Saxophone. He did not recognize me by name, I’m sure, and I doubt if he recognized me, period. He blew me off and muttering something about “having to go” did not give me the time of day.

I did some further research on the UTHS situation and the best I have been able to determine, the inmates may be in charge of the asylum. My daughter told me, over four years ago, that she did not want me to substitute teach there, as the kids showed the teachers no respect and were unruly and difficult to discipline. I have heard rumors that the administration does not “back” the teachers and that physical altercations, while perhaps not the norm are not that unusual.

It was always my belief that, if you hit a teacher (let alone two teachers) you would be expelled. For how long you would be expelled was open to question. Often the length of the expulsion was not long enough, in the teachers’ eyes. (One semester? Two?) One teacher (male), who was known to be the type who can take care of himself physically, got tired of being hit and quit his job. (He went to work as a prison guard, instead). He returned, briefly, but ultimately left for a better job elsewhere.

In short, what is happening at United Township High School and why was this case in Rock Island County Court on Monday, May 18, 2009? It would seem, to me, that the student in question should be expelled. Two wrongs do not make a right. While Josh Lopez should not have “taunted” anyone, hitting not one, but two teachers to get to him to retaliate seems a case of “two wrongs do not make a right.” Is it the school’s intent to see the student do actual jail time, as well as to suffer expulsion? If so, was it because the hit to the face broke teeth or did serious physical damage? Obviously, there is an issue within the school if the band teacher, who is a mild-mannered individual who doesn’t even have to control the kind of class that students usually rebel against (i.e, the kind where you have to sit quietly and think and concentrate) is struck AND a counselor, who was described as “trying to calm Mr. Mooney down,” is struck in the face during the fracas.

Mr. Mooney might also be well advised to dress up a bit for his court appearance. He was wearing tennis and a hooded sweatshirt. Did not exactly scream” solid citizen.” I would not want either one of these attorneys to defend me in court. The prosecution seemed dim and the defense seemed to not be using his challenges wisely. It will be interesting to see how the case turns out. Personally, I don’t think the kid has a chance in hell of getting off.


Franco Rivera (Daniel Sunjata of “Rescue Me”) At Midway Airport (Chicago) on May 7th, 2009


Writers’ Conferences in NYC Worthwhile


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  6. It’s not that I can’t spell, I can ‘t type. And Anne, my English teacher did punch me in the face because my blouse was open.

  7. Anne

    WHO is Bernie, and WHY can’t she spell? Maybe HER English teacher should be punched in the face.

  8. Scott Wilson

    Interesting read. I’m surprised Maccabee was involved. Who’s teeth got knocked out? Maccabee’s?

    Bernie cannot spell.

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