TOULON — A judge issued a $100,000 arrest warrant Monday for a Kewanee man who was released from jail Sunday on $150 cash bail after allegedly leading police on a high-speed chase from Wyoming to Kewanee on Friday.
John M. Warner, 40, was formally charged in Stark County on Monday with the felonies of aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude police, and also driving with a revoked or suspended license for the sixth time in the past 15 years. As of 7 p.m. Monday, he had not been taken into custody.
Friday’s chase began at about 3 p.m. with Stark County Deputy Gary Bent pursuing Warner’s 2001 SUV at speeds from 70 mph as it neared the east edge of Wyoming up to 76 mph as he left the north end of town, according to police reports. After officers from at least four other agencies had joined in the chase, it ended when Bent rammed the rear of the vehicle with his squad car as it headed into Kewanee traffic in the wrong lane.
“Deputy Bent stopped the Tahoe before it could hit an innocent person,” Sheriff Steve Sloan said in a news release.
Warner was booked into jail Friday but released Sunday afternoon because of not seeing a judge in the statutory time frame of 48 hours. He posted the bail on traffic citations for speeding, driving revoked, and driving an uninsured vehicle, and was issued a notice to appear in court on May 18.
The 48-hour deadline passed because of three independent issues occurring at once in the small county, State’s Attorney Jim Owens said late Monday afternoon. The first two are that the law in effect since Jan. 1 requires that such a defendant not only see a judge but also be represented by a public defender, and the third involved information needed from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office on Warner’s driving record, Owens explained.
“Stark County has no resident judge, the public defender (Robert McBride of Henry) is not in the county, and the Secretary of State’s Office was not accessible over the weekend,” the prosecutor said.
Such court appearances are customarily handled by the resident judges in the three small counties within the 10th Judicial Circuit who generally preside elsewhere during the week — but Stark County currently has none. Thomas Keith retired March 30, and presumed Judge-elect Bruce Fehrenbacher is not scheduled to take office until Dec. 1.
Owens said he contacted the Marshall and Putnam County sheriff’s offices to see if either of them was bringing a defendant before their judges, but neither was. He did not contact Circuit Judge Stephen Kouri, who is the current presiding judge in all three counties but typically sits in Stark only one day a week, he added.
“I did not contact Judge Kouri because he’s in Peoria, and I thought the judges in Marshall or Putnam County would be closer,” Owens said.
Owens obtained the warrant early Monday by approaching Kouri in Marshall County, where the judge was presiding over a jury trial. It will require $10,000 cash.
Initial reports stated that Warner was from East Peoria, but that information may have stemmed from an expired driver’s license, a jail official said. The latest court records list his address as 3678 U.S. Highway 34 in Kewanee.
According to court documents, Warner has had prior convictions for driving revoked in Henry County in 2003, 2206, and 2010; in Iroquois County in 2007; and in Peoria County in 2017. Both that offense and the fleeing charge are Class 4 felonies punishable by up to three years in prison, but the revoked charge is also subject to a mandatory minimum term of 180 days imprisonment.
Gary L. Smith can be reached at (800) 516-0389 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Glsmithx.