Corruption and Incompetence in Champaign County
My name is Christopher Hansen. I am a UIUC College of Engineering graduate and 16 year resident of Urbana, IL. I am writing this as an open letter to anyone who might find it concerning that a simple visit to downtown Champaign might turn into a multi-year long, depression-inducing nightmare. This saga involves a corrupt, violent, and incompetent police force, a savage and malignant county jail, willfully negligent news agencies, and a downright malicious close friend of the past Mayor of Champaign. This person concealed the truth, and her actions put a completely innocent person in jail, destroying his reputation. The same public entities mentioned denied the fulfillment of FOIA requests, and an inattentive Attorney General upheld those denials. Warnings about citizen oversight and the actions of those public bodies were ignored, and multiple preventable deaths followed thereafter. To my knowledge, none of the problems raised in this story have been rectified in any way.
Covered in Shattered Glass
On August 22nd 2015 I was driving home from the downtown Champaign area when I was pulled over by Champaign Police next to the AM-KO parking lot at Springfield and 1st. I was driving normally and had not broken any traffic laws, so the stop was a mystery to me. This was not a leisurely traffic stop. Multiple unmarked cars lined up behind me and simultaneously turned on their emergency lights to pull me over. One of the cars pulled up onto the sidewalk/grass to my right, and two more cars showed up almost immediately after. Within one minute there were at least 9 vehicles with flashing lights on all sides of my stopped vehicle.
As soon as I stopped, I rolled my window down approximately 3 inches so I could talk to them and give them my ID, and I put my hands visibly on the steering wheel. The first officer that approached immediately started ordering me out of the car. This seemed rather abrupt and unusual, and I asked why I had been pulled over. The officer just repeated that I needed to get out of the car. I found this rather disconcerting, so I asked him to identify himself and again asked why I had been stopped. The officer would not identify himself or explain anything. This exchange was repeated a few times, and with each iteration, I became more fearful and suspicious that something very wrong was happening (why would police officers refuse to identify themselves?). As I became more terrified, they became more enraged. I pleaded for the men to bring in a supervisor. I tried to remain calm, but with that many armed men surrounding me, some with weapons drawn and pointed squarely at me, I did not feel very safe. At one point I was told to turn off my vehicle, which I immediately did, but just moving my hand off the steering wheel and down to the key made my heart skip a beat. Despite my pleading for an explanation, the men refused to identify themselves, tell me what they were doing, or explain why I had been stopped.
40 seconds after first approach, I asked again for a supervisor and the man who first approached belligerently shouted “I am the supervisor!” but he still wouldn’t actually identify himself. At the 50 second mark one of the men, with weapon pointed at me (I’m still sitting in my car with my hands on the wheel) said “I swear to God I’m gonna taze you”. I don’t know if I can fully articulate how terrifying it is to be surrounded by that many angry men itching to use deadly force, but it felt like a ‘somebody’s about to die’ situation, and that somebody was me.
Before I could make any sense of the situation, or determine how to deescalate the violent proclivities of the high-strung men surrounding me, the man who identified himself as supervisor grabbed the top of my window and rocked it back with his bodyweight. The window shattered, causing an explosion of glass shards to hit me in the face and cover my body. 64 seconds after approach, no one has told me why this is happening, no one has identified themselves, they haven’t identified me, and I’m covered in shattered glass, being pulled out of the car by four officers and pressed down onto the trunk while handcuffs are snapped onto my wrists.
At this point, I started repeatedly asking why I was being arrested and stating that I didn’t consent to any searches. “We don’t care” and “You may think you know your rights, but you don’t” were two of the responses barked at me by the same man who shattered my window, who finally identified himself as Lt. James Clark. Clark then told me I had been arrested for robbery. “Robbery?!?” I could see my confusion reflected in the eyes of the other officers as I exclaimed this. Before I was put into a squad car and made to watch them tussle through my vehicle, I asked for medical attention since flying glass had hit me in the face and it felt like I had been cut – I could also feel shards of glass in my shoe (and I wasn’t even aware of the glass shards in my waistband that were cutting into me). I was then taken out of that car and told to stand on the sidewalk. Terribly confused, I looked around and noticed another squad car about 30ft away and could make out a woman in the passenger seat pointing and laughing at me. “You’ve just been positively identified for stealing a purse,” I was told, before being put back into the squad car. 10 minutes later, I was Mirandized by Officer Kurt Buckley and when he asked if I understood I said “I can hear you,” to which Buckley said “I’ll take that as a no, so our conversation’s over.” 30 minutes after the initial stop, an ambulance arrived. The EMT only emptied the glass from my shoe but did not administer attention to the glass cuts. 12 minutes later, Officer Kurt Buckley transported me to the Champaign County Jail.
15 Naked Hours in Solitary, No Medical Attention
At the jail, county correctional officers and Officer Kurt Buckley started questioning me and I repeatedly said I did not want to issue any statements without first speaking to a lawyer. The correctional officers tried to convince me that nothing I said there could be used against me in court, even though Buckley (who was in the same room) had just told me the opposite during Miranda. We had to go through multiple iterations of them trying to convince me that nothing I said could be used against me in court, and me saying I didn’t wish to issue a statement. Buckley and the correctional officers began issuing threats about stripping me naked and leaving me in a cell for 3 days if I didn’t cooperate with their interrogation. I could feel something was terribly wrong, like they were trying to get me to say anything that would incriminate myself and justify their use of force, so I sternly repeated that I would not be issuing any statements. The officers got very frustrated and, as I’ve learned from this experience, everyone gets a chance to issue their own brand of punishment, no due process required.
In this case, since I didn’t want to answer any questions, they determined me to be a suicide risk, took me into a cell and four men forcibly stripped me completely naked on a concrete floor next to a puddle of someone else’s urine. Already cut and bleeding in multiple places, my entire naked body including my genitals and face were pressed and scraped against the dried portion of the puddle of the urine that had streamed across the floor into the drain, with my face just inches from the wet part of the puddle. By “forcibly stripped”, I don’t mean I was fighting, I mean that when Correctional Officer Christians asked, “Are you going to strip naked for me?”, I looked puzzled and said, “Uhh no?”, then on Christian’s gesture, several men poured into the room and pinned me down. I was left with a small straight-jacket type thing which was more functional as a small pad to keep me off the disgusting concrete floor than clothing, so I stayed naked the entire time.
I was made to wait in this disgusting jail cell with open cuts on my foot and waist (from my shattered car window) for over 15 hours. The officers, including Sergeant Arnold Mathews (who identified himself as the jail supervisor), unilaterally denied about 30 requests I made to see a doctor, starting from within a few minutes of me entering the intake room. I asked to fill out a medical request form multiple times and was repeatedly told “No” by Arnold Mathews and other officers. I had cuts on four parts of my body and was concerned about the unsanitary conditions. I am also at risk for blood clotting (I had a deep vein thrombosis a few years ago) and am advised to take daily medication and avoid long periods of immobility and dehydration. The jail intake room has posters on the walls indicating that every inmate has the right to be seen by a doctor. I did squats and pushups to stay warm and keep my blood flowing while the guards laughed at me and referred to me as “the white guy.” For the entirety of my stay, almost every correctional officer walked around with chewing tobacco packed into their cheeks, frequently returning to their strategically placed Mountain Dew cans to spit excess brown saliva (no, I am not caricaturing). I made dozens of requests to make a phone call so I could let someone know where I was. Those requests were all denied as well.
At approximately the 8 hour mark, Nurse Lois (the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office refused to provide her full name) arrived to see prisoners. Lois did not understand why I was being kept under suicide watch and asked one of the guards. The guard responded that I had refused to answer questions. I then told Lois that I had made dozens of requests to see a doctor and she turned to the guard to inquire why my requests were not fulfilled. The guard told Lois that the requests “were only verbal.” I could see from their exchange that Lois was subservient to the guards and afraid of them. When I complained to Lois that the guards pressed my naked body against the floor with urine on it, the guard argued that it must have been me that urinated on the floor. I advised Lois of my risk of blood clotting and told her I should be taking medication. She said she would look into it. Hours later when I was able to speak to her again and ask about medication, she told me, “That’s not important right now.”
The Video Court Hearing
At approximately the 9 hour mark, the other prisoners and I were brought into a video courtroom where bond amounts were set. It was only then that I finally heard the story of what I had supposedly done. The state prosecutor claimed that I had snuck up on a woman at W Park Ave between Randolph and Neil St, grabbed her purse and struggled with her, then ran north on Neil St with the purse. The prosecutor claimed I matched the description of the perpetrator, and the victim positively identified me (this would be the woman in the squad car pointing and laughing at me).
As I discovered later from police reports and dash cam footage, Champaign Police Officer Katherine Thompson happened to already be at Neil and Main St (due to an unrelated incident) during the time of the robbery and subsequent 911 call. Thompson did not see any likely suspect heading north on Neil St, but after driving south of the robbery location, and about 5 minutes after the robbery, Thompson spotted me (a white male wearing jeans and a black t-shirt, the description given to METCAD). Thompson stood silently on the sidewalk while I walked past her. She made eye contact with me, but said nothing. Thompson then observed me as I walked across a parking lot to my car and drove out of the lot. Then Thompson called for the other officers to arrest me as the likely robber (hence the 9-car attack fleet of Champaign Police Officers that swooped down on me so quickly). To be clear: I was pulled over, my car window shattered, and I was arrested based solely on the fact that I was the first white male whom Officer Katherine Thompson spotted wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. All of this transpired before any police officer had even located or spoken to the victim. My bond was set for $10,000 and I was sent back to my latrine of a cell.
The Suicide Watch
At approximately the 11 hour mark, licensed professional counselor Daniel Applegate interviewed me and also didn’t understand why I was on suicide watch. When the guard explained that I had refused to answer questions, it seemed clear that Applegate understood that I was simply being punished and nothing else. My impression was that Applegate understood this was typical jail officer behavior. Applegate immediately cleared me, but the guards still delayed 2-3 hours past that before giving me underwear and an orange jumpsuit and moving me to a cell where I did not have to smell urine. They were not at all busy during this time, and I had previously heard the guards telling other detainees that they intended to keep them in jail as long as possible as punishment, despite a judge having already set bond amounts for everyone. Keep in mind, everyone in this portion of the jail is still innocent and hasn’t been proven guilty of anything. In addition to frequently making fun of me while I was naked in the cell, I also overheard guards using racial slurs, and teasing and threatening other prisoners at various times.
I then waited another 2-3 hours before I was finally able to make a phone call, post bond, and leave the jail. I learned that I was only able to do this because there was a guard shift change. The new guard confirmed to me that the previous shift probably just did not like me and were just letting me sit there to punish me. He freely explained this tome in a way that made it sound like typical behavior by the jail guards. Whereas I had originally planned to leave town that Saturday morning to help with a family crisis, I instead sat in jail for 17 hours, naked most of the time, and none of my friends, family, or neighbors knew where I was. It was my close friend and business manager, worriedly searching for me, who finally figured it out and called the jail, then showed up in person. It was only after she started asking questions that the jail staff altered their stated plan to hold me for several days, and allowed me to make a phone call. If I did not have an outside person inquiring, I would not be surprised if the guards were planning on leaving me there much longer, if only to entertain themselves. I wonder, what happens to anyone who is jailed in Champaign County, and is not fortunate enough to have friends or family searching for them?
After I left the jail, I spent the next few hours paying impoundment and towing fees ($250 to the Champaign Police Department to release my vehicle, and$185 to Reynolds Towing Service) to retrieve my damaged car, eating, and surprisingly, sleeping. One does not get much sleep naked on a concrete floor in a cold, brightly lit jail cell, with the unrelenting stench of urine in the air.
The First Day in Court
The next day was a Sunday, so the only lawyers I could call were friends, none of whom practice in the area. My arraignment date was set for Monday afternoon, which was not enough time to choose a criminal defender, and the early advice I received was that I probably did not absolutely need a lawyer just for the arraignment, so I went without one. At the arraignment I was given a financial affidavit to apply for a public defender. I figured I probably would not qualify but I filled it out anyway. When Judge John R Kennedy called me up to the Judge’s bench, I asked questions about delaying arraignment until I could hire a lawyer. He said I could have a week and when I asked if I could have two weeks, he became very angry, started yelling at me, and told me to go sit back down in the public seating area. After everyone else in the court had been processed he called me back up, and in a truly frightening flip of character, was exceedingly polite, and allowed me to ask my questions. I asked if I could use the public defender for the arraignment and then hire my own lawyer. To my surprise, he said I could, and assigned a public defender to my case. In the two weeks that followed, I also met with at least 10 private criminal defenders, where I was quoted prices in the $4,000 to $8,000 range to handle only the pretrial portion of the criminal trial, then a multiple of that fee to handle a full trial. Besides the cost, I was also unimpressed with most of those options, so I ended up staying with the public defender.
From the arraignment, I also finally learned the identity of my accuser: Jennifer L Ryan, 47 year old executive chef, divorced mother of one college-age daughter, long-time Urbana resident and property owner. Naturally, as a chef, Ryan is Facebook friends with many restaurant and business owners in the area. Ryan also appears to be close friends with past Mayor of the City of Champaign, Don Gerard. To the best of my knowledge, I have never met or even crossed paths with Jennifer Ryan.
After having a close friend proof read this letter, her greatest concern was that anyone who does not know me might quickly decide that I am one of those disaster-prone types who is always getting into trouble. So, for anyone reading this who does not know me, here is a start:
During my teenage years I split most of my free time between Boy Scouts, orchestra (viola), and my own independent engineering projects. At 17, I earned my Eagle Scout rank and had started an online business designing and selling small electronics for robotics and radio control. I came to Urbana to study Electrical Engineering at UIUC, during which time I grew my small business out of my dorm room. By my junior/senior years, in addition to running my business, I was simultaneously working as a teaching assistant for two different engineering courses (positions otherwise filled only by graduate students), designing and building electronics for yet a third professor’s startup company, and working for the Army Corps of Engineers where I designed and built environmental sensors and then wrote patents for those designs. In my senior year of undergrad, when I designed and built what was probably the first autonomous aircraft at UIUC, I was also independently designing a number of different high-efficiency power converters. I thought the power converters were cool, so I showed them to my professors. This led to me being recognized with an award and giving a speech for the Grainger Foundation, something normally reserved for PhD research students. As I finished my bachelor’s degree, I received several offers from professors for continuing in academia. However, school was never the right place for me and by the time I graduated, my business was growing quickly and I preferred to focus on that. Pretty happy here, I bought a house in West Urbana when I was 22 and have lived here ever since. I continue to grow the electronics business I started in high school and, despite having started two additional businesses as well, I still find time to pursue my various interests. I especially like to restore antique furniture and think of ways to bring modern efficiency and functionality to historic homes while keeping the original historic features intact. My favorite post-college (independent) studies have included religion, evolution, economics, praxeology, and philosophy particular to morality. That means I can offer a biological basis for morality, and construct an objectivist argument against theft (but in practice, I may steal food off your plate at dinner).
83 Security Cameras, A Dozen Witnesses, and a GPS
As in almost every other task in life, I figured if you want something done right, you had better do it yourself. As the judge read the maximum sentence at my arraignment as 7 years in prison, it hit me that this is one of those situations where you don’t just kick back and let things run their course. Immediately after I got out of jail, I worked on this disaster every waking hour for weeks. I also completely re-tasked two of my full-time employees and had some close friends helping as well. Within 72 hours of my release from jail, my crew and I had accomplished the following:
- I identified and contacted numerous people who could confirm my whereabouts before, during, and after the alleged robbery. Some were able to find and send me images of texts, credit card receipts, etc. with timestamps. Several people could confirm my whereabouts with exact times and many more could with various degrees of certainty to the time.
- I downloaded my cell phone location data from Google which showed that I was at the Blind Pig during the time of the robbery and was never, at any time, at the site of the alleged robbery.
- We documented 83 different security cameras in downtown Champaign that could have shown my whereabouts or shown the actual robber/robbery, and we made efforts to contact each of those business owners. This effort put, in my hands, video and/or still shots from 25 different cameras that confirmed my whereabouts for about 90 minutes before the robbery, during the robbery, and after.
- The data we gathered provided a seamless, non-conflicting, frequently triply-redundant alibi for two hours that crescendos at the precise time of the robbery with me in plain view of 3 different cameras simultaneously, 1 witness who remembered me in great detail (the bartender distinctly remembered me because I tipped her a dollar for a glass of water), cell phone location data, and the sending of a text message with my cell phone (which can be seen on video).
Having all of this evidence in hand made me feel more confident about going forward with the public defender instead of shelling out thousands for a private attorney. In hindsight, this was probably a very bad decision.
I also learned that for the evidence to be considered sound, it would have to be regathered in the proper legal way, and not through my hands. However, when I called First Assistant Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones multiple times to alert her of all of this evidence, I was told to sit tight for a couple of weeks because the discovery process would be done by the prosecution and they would send it to us when they were done. What!?
I conveyed the urgency of collecting the video evidence to the Public Defender’s Office, but instead of acquiring the evidence that proved my innocence before it was erased and written over by new footage, I was seen as a nuisance and even reprimanded by First Assistant Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones for asking for attention to the matter. Miller-Jones also scolded me for not issuing a statement to police, insisting that if I had just explained myself to the police, I would not have been arrested that night. Miller-Jones needed reminding that it was the police who refused to identify themselves or offer any basis/reason for the altercation. I asked the police many times what was happening and they refused to say—how could one explain themselves under such circumstances? I could not find any other criminal defender who thought that trying to stage an on-the-spot legal defense with the police would have been a good idea.
Justice on Vacation
One would think this story would come to an abrupt end given all of the physical evidence in hand. Furthermore, the police never found the purse nor anything illegal on my person or in my car. One might also wonder why an engineer who can make more money staying at home writing computer code would bother stealing purses. However, none of this matters at all when the prosecutor assigned to your case, Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew P Banach, is on vacation for 2 weeks and cannot be bothered to review any of the evidence. On the contrary, the idea of going to jail for the better part of a decade gave me a different level of motivation and I continued gathering evidence (just in case the legal system doesn’t work as it should):
- Severely Intoxicated Accuser: Several witnesses confirm that my accuser, Jennifer L Ryan, was terribly intoxicated that night. Professor Zuofu Cheng, a close friend of Ryan who was with her most of that night says “Jen was really drunk.” Owner of Quality Bar, Aaron Van Natta, and manager Terry Boyer (who placed the 911 call for Ryan after she stumbled into the bar from the parking lot nearby) confirm that Ryan was walking around erratically, “babbling about losing her dad’s credit card,” according to Van Natta. Boyer indicates that Ryan had “wandered off before police arrived and they had to go searching for her”. Then Boyer described Ryan as “completely wasted,” “teetering back and forth as she spoke to the cops like she was about to fall over”. Professor Cheng indicates that Ryan has claimed to have been robbed at least 3 times before and said that he felt like Ryan had made up such stories in the past. According to Professor Cheng, he spoke with Ryan the day after the alleged robbery and based on his understanding of the events, even told her “she got the wrong guy.”
- Absurd Identification of Suspect: We are able to review the dash cam footage from the numerous police vehicles. Most striking is the offensive and inappropriate dialogue between Jennifer Ryan and Officer Katherine A Thompson wherein they’re both giggling like children, laughing at me and talking about “kicking him in the nuts.” During the “show-up” identification, a very intoxicated Jennifer Ryan positively identifies me after only catching a glimpse of the side of my head for a fraction of a second, 30ft away, at night, through a windshield and without her glasses (which she told police were stolen with the purse). Shortly after, Ryan was so impaired that Officer Nathanael Epling would not let her drive herself home. When Epling asked her how he could contact her that night, Ryan kept repeating that he could call or text her, but she could not explain how that would be possible given that her phone was stolen.
- No Robber: The Public Defender’s Office is able to obtain video from several more cameras that I documented, but from which I could not convince the business owners to give me video without a subpoena. Multiple cameras around the Busey Bank Executive Building at W Park Ave and N Neil St, and outside of V Picasso Restaurant, show the path that Ryan claims the robber ran. These cameras show fields of view of the area immediately adjacent to the location of the alleged robbery, which supposedly happened in the parking lot immediately west of the Busey Bank Executive Building. Investigator Steve Guess examined the video at the Public Defender’s Office in September of 2015. Investigator Guess’s study of the video footage shows not me running away with Ryan’s purse, it shows no plausible suspect running or walking with a purse. An almost non-stop trickle of people, couples, and small groups walk through the area immediately adjacent to, and within clear view of, where the robbery allegedly happened, and apparently no one noticed a violent struggle just yards away. As I watched the videos with Investigator Steve Guess at the Public Defender’s office, I was speechless: it seemed like the robbery never even happened.
Still, none of this evidence can make the charges against me go away because Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Banach is still on vacation. So I wait, in dread.
All for Naught
Finally, a response from prosecutor Matthew Banach:
- Investigators (Champaign Police) are sent to review all of the video evidence showing that I could not have possibly committed the robbery because I was at the Blind Pig the entire time. Unfortunately for me, the Champaign Police Officers find that the video is no longer on any of the security systems because they waited so long that it has now been overwritten.
- First Assistant Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones informs me that the nearest expert having the qualifications needed to testify about my cell phone location data is 3 states away, and it would be far too expensive and complicated to bring him in, so we cannot use that evidence.
So I wait, in extreme dread, for a trial. On the bright side, the piece of car window glass that had been imbedded in my foot for weeks finally came out.
Nearly two months from the day of my arrest have passed and I am still doing research, making phone calls every day, trying to see if any stones have been left unturned. I can’t visit friends and family because I am prohibited from leaving the state. My car door and window are wrapped in plastic from the shattered window. At this point I had also spent a good deal of my time explaining myself to numerous friends and neighbors who read false and defamatory articles about me online and in the newspaper.
As the reader may have supposed, I am not writing this letter from a prison cell. Here is how the the charges were finally dismissed: My tenacious investigation efforts bring in a valuable bit of intel. One of my engineering students from 13 years ago (when I was a teaching assistant at UIUC) who still lives in town, tells me he heard through the grapevine that Jennifer Ryan recovered her supposedly stolen belongings. After further investigation, I learn from the owner of Mike & Molly’s bar that Ryan left her cell phone there the night of the robbery and returned later that weekend to collect it. It took weeks of urging before the Champaign Police finally agreed to investigate Ryan’s recovery of her belongings. According to the investigating officer, Katherine Thompson, the night of my arrest Jennifer Ryan left Mike & Molly’s bar then entered Quality Bar where she claimed she was robbed of her purse, cell phone, driver’s license and her father’s credit card, while alone in the Busey Bank parking lot (and shortly thereafter ‘identified’ me as her attacker). Then, 36 hours later, Jennifer Ryan returned to Mike & Molly’s bar where she collected the cell phone she’d left there and told people in the bar that
“she had been robbed in broad daylight while she was with four of her friends. She then stated that she was now going to different bars collecting her items because they were ‘strewn throughout the city.’ _____Ryan seemed out of it as if the robbery had just happened ___ and was also rambling on and on. [Ryan] had the purse that she was robbed of when she entered the bar to get her phone.”
I had been accused, positively identified, jailed, and indicted for a crime that seems to have been entirely fictional. Whereas I spent my weekend in jail, recovering and patching up my smashed car, and bandaging up glass cuts, Jennifer Ryan was gathering the belongings she lost at bars during her intoxication marathon. Ryan kept this secret, and let me spend a torturous day in jail and the next 2 months meeting with lawyers, gathering evidence, attending court dates, explaining myself to everyone around me, and entering into a spiraling depression which, to this day, only continues to worsen. This circus was instigated by the Champaign Police Department and the Champaign County State’s Attorney, without ever having a single shred of physical evidence.
A visit to Jennifer Ryan’s publicly viewable Facebook page shows she was traveling on vacations, visiting hotels, restaurants, and resorts starting just days after my arrest. This ordeal seems to have been just a regular night out for Ryan. Ryan posted about the robbery on her Facebook page, fetching replies from over one hundred of her friends, most of whom praised Ryan for her bravery and expressed concern for her well-being. The thread includes my full name, and Ryan’s friends are not shy about expressing their interest to hurt and kill me. In the same Facebook thread, and on the same day she collected her missing belongings as described above, Ryan claimed that she “got nothing back”after the robbery. It seems Ryan has no qualms about lying to her own friends.
Perhaps even more disturbing was the curious responses from some of the businesses possessing security camera footage from the night of the alleged robbery. There were three different businesses that failed to provide video to Steve Guess, the lead investigator at the Public Defender’s Office. One business flat-out refused to communicate. The next business first assured Investigator Guess that the footage would be saved, but 2 weeks later claimed to have lost all of their security footage after deciding to replace their recording system. Curiously, 3 days after claiming to have lost all of their video footage, the facility manager (whom I was pleading with personally), was able to privately send me several still shots from their video system, writing only, “Here is what I am able to give you.” The cameras at the third business likely would have shown Jennifer Ryan leaving her purse and/or contents at one of the bars she visited, showing without question that she could not have possibly been robbed of those possessions later. This business also assured Investigator Guess that everything was saved. However, when the technician sent to retrieve that video tried to download it from the storage system, he found that the video from that night (and only that night) had been overwritten with video from a different night. The technician was dumbfounded and Steve Guess even used the phrase “foul play”. The businesses that failed to provide video in 3 unique ways are all owned by the same developer, who happens to be a Facebook friend of Jennifer Ryan.
The Treachery of Jennifer L Ryan
During the 2 month criminal trial process, I was sternly advised not to publicly post anything or speak to anyone about the case, even if it would help prove my innocence. After the charges were dropped, over 3 years ago, I started writing this letter, and began uploading every file, video, and audio recording that I had from my own investigative work and FOIA requests. Shortly after I began uploading information which would publicly clear my name, my accuser Jennifer L Ryan, decided that the evidence put her in a bad light, and accused me of “cyberbullying”. Ryan even had her attorney, Michael B McClellan, send a letter of intent to sue me if I posted anything about the case online. My lawyer (a private attorney that I hired after the criminal case) advised me that the cyberbullying laws in Illinois are so draconian that even posting verifiably true things online could get a person into serious trouble. The law in Illinois actually indicates that a person is committing a class 4 felony (minimum one year in prison) if they were to make any “electronic communication” that so much as caused “emotional distress” to another person. Jennifer Ryan was fiendishly threatening to put me back in jail, just to stop me from clearing my name, and spare herself from public embarrassment. With little other recourse, I removed the online content, scrapped this letter, and tried to proceed through the justice system.
In the months and years following the incident, on the advice of my lawyer, I contacted the Champaign Police Department numerous times asking them to charge Jennifer Ryan (now “Jennifer Ryan Stundins”) with filing a false police report. My lawyer fully reviewed all of the evidence and was convinced without a doubt that Ryan had committed a crime and should be criminally charged and convicted.
Champaign Police Detective Bradley J Krauel was assigned to the case after the charges against me were dismissed. The extent to which Krauel was willing to investigate any further was to interview Jennifer Ryan. Written in Krauel’s report are details from his recorded interview with Ryan exactly 3 months after she claimed to have been robbed. In this interview, Krauel asked Ryan about her stolen items including her driver’s license and Ryan said that she never recovered her license and had to get a new one. However, when Krauel asked to see Ryan’s driver’s license, Ryan produced a license with an issuance date of 6/15/2015, more than 2 months before the alleged robbery. Krauel caught Ryan in a blatant lie. In the interview, Ryan also could not clearly remember other basic details about that night or said things that conflicted with her previous statements. For example, Ryan changed her description of the robber’s clothing from “jeans” to “baggy cut off skater shorts.” Whereas Ryan initially told the 911 dispatcher that her attacker simply had brown hair and no distinct facial features, she told Krauel that he had “a weird spike hair cut with the side shaved.” According to Krauel’s report, when asked about her level of intoxication, Ryan said “she had a lot to drink” at Quality Bar at the time of her 911 call and that “while she was standing with the officers, people kept buying her drinks”.
In other words, Jennifer Ryan entered Quality Bar drunk (according to multiple witnesses), then proceeded to consume multiple servings of alcohol in the presence of Champaign Police Officers, including Officer Katherine Thompson. Officer Thompson then drove a terribly drunk Jennifer Ryan to the location of my arrest so Ryan could positively identify me. When Krauel asked Ryan about her having retrieved all of her supposedly stolen items back from the locations of her bar-crawl, Ryan became defensive and Krauel would not proceed with further questioning. Despite my urging, Krauel inexplicably told me that there is no way that they would charge Ryan with filing a false police report. Krauel refused to review the video footage collected by Steve Guess that shows no plausible suspect fleeing with a purse. Krauel certainly did not want to hear anything about or look into why some businesses failed to produce security footage. Krauel didn’t seem to care about the bogus online media postings made by the Champaign Police Department listing my full name and depicting me as a criminal, and would not do anything to help get those removed. Krauel seemed to be indicating to me that his hands were tied and urged me relinquish my efforts with Champaign Police, but encouraged me to sue Jennifer Ryan in civil court.
It was only after my criminal charges were dropped that I finally received a copy of Jennifer Ryan’s 911 call and analyzed it alongside the dash cam footage from Officer Thompson. Ryan tells the dispatcher that the robber is a 5’10” male wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. When the dispatcher asks about the robber’s race, Ryan first says “Afri…” then she changes it to “white”. When Officer Thompson first arrives at Quality Bar, she tells some bystanders that she is looking for someone “that matches the description of about half the people here.” Less than 3 minutes later, Thompson repeats this to other officers over the radio when calling for my arrest, “I don’t know if that’s him or not, but it matches the description of a lot of males around here.” At this point, no police officer has yet located or even spoken to Jennifer Ryan. When Officer Thompson does locate Ryan (4 minutes after the 911 call), Ryan’s description of the robber’s height changes from 5’10” to 5’7” (my height: 6’2”). Thompson begins asking Ryan basic questions about the robbery; several blocks away, Lt. James Clark shatters my car window, and finds no purse. After conferring over the radio, Thompson casually says, “That’s probably not the guy then.” Ryan lies to officers multiple times about her whereabouts before the robbery, and in every variation, Ryan fails to tell the truth that she went from V Picasso to Mike & Molly’s (where she collects her “stolen” phone, 36 hours later). Later, when Ryan and Officer Thompson are walking through downtown Champaign, searching for Ryan’s purse, Thompson seems both amused and confused that Ryan is not concerned with trying to find the purse. As Ryan gets easily distracted, Thompson laughs “I’d probably look for that missing Italian purse!” Then Thompson gives Ryan a “high five” for being so brave and tells her “I’m glad that you did what you did.”
In her report, Thompson writes that she attempted to stop me from leaving the area, stating that she “shined [her] flashlight directly at the driver” as she “attempt[ed] to catch up to him.” However, video from the parking lot shows that Thompson is never within 130 feet of my vehicle, and does not appear to have a flashlight in her hand. Thompson can be seen walking at a normal pace through the parking lot after my vehicle leaves, and does not make any attempt to signal a stop. Thompson made no mention of attempting to stop me over the radio or to any of the other officers, and only seems to think of it after Ryan identifies me.
With some persistence on my part, in May of 2016 Detective Krauel finally requested copies of my video alibi from Investigator Steve Guess at the Public Defender’s Office, but Krauel didn’t know how to play the video files. Later that month, with the assistance of another detective, Krauel finally reviewed the overwhelmingly sound video alibis and concluded it was impossible that I could have committed the supposed robbery. However, as I continued to encourage Detective Krauel to further investigate Jennifer Ryan for filing a false police report, it became more and more apparent that something was rotten inside the Champaign Police Department, making justice impossible.
It is not clear to me if Jennifer Ryan may have been using her connections with Don Gerard, the past Mayor of Champaign. Before and after the incident, Ryan and Gerard spent most of their weekends together, traveling to nearby cities and attending various events (and posting Facebook photos of themselves all the while). Gerard has been taken to court at least twice for misusing his authority as mayor. In one case, Mayor Gerard threatened to use the City of Champaign Attorney Frederick Stavins to intimidate and criminally prosecute his ex-girlfriend, even threatening to charge her with robbery when she moved out of his home. In another case, musician Jim Bean filed an order of protection against Mayor Gerard, indicating that Gerard physically assaulted him. Mayor Gerard also purportedly said that he was going to have Jim Bean put in jail and that Bean would be “f**ked in the a** in prison by big black dudes.” Judge Clemmons concluded that Mayor Gerard could have “anger control issues”.
Perhaps Ryan was using her connections through her father, a retired police officer. Since it was already clear that Ryan had no qualms about lying (even to her own friends) and covering up evidence, conspiring to use her connections with people of power seemed just as likely. What was painfully clear was that the Champaign Police officers involved in this incident did not have any interest in investigating Jennifer Ryan, and that did not make any sense at all. Why would the Champaign Police Department arrest, jail, charge, and indict me based on no evidence whatsoever, but refuse to even investigate the obvious deceit of Jennifer Ryan, wherein a myriad damning evidence already existed?
SoI decided to go a different route: I walked into the Champaign Police Department and found a rookie officer who had just recently joined the department. In July of 2018, Officer Caleb Rice sat down with me and two friends of mine who are familiar with the evidence, and we discussed the incident point by point. We discussed the original police reports and Krauel’s unwillingness to perform a real investigation and refusal to review all of the additional evidence. I even made a list of the existing evidence against Jennifer Ryan and gave it to Officer Rice, which he said was really helpful. Rice couldn’t understand why a proper investigation into Jennifer Ryan’s crimes hadn’t been performed. “None of this is making sense to me”, said Officer Rice during the interview. Rice enthusiastically assured me that he would personally be looking into this and I would be getting a phone call back that night.
I finally felt a little glimmer of hope, but I received no phone call that night, nor the next day, or week. I called the Champaign Police Department numerous times over a period of 2 months asking for Officer Rice. I frequently left messages for him, but he would not accept my calls or even try to call me back. Rice was not on vacation or otherwise preoccupied, as confirmed by the administrators who handle phone calls for the department. Officer Rice went from highly enthusiastic to completely silent. For me, this confirmed my suspicion that the Champaign Police Department is corrupt, and that Jennifer Ryan, in addition to lying and covering up evidence privately, was likely using her connections to shield herself from investigation.
The only useful thing that has come of my numerous calls to the Champaign Police Department was that after a year of repeatedly asking, I finally got back the shirt, shoes, and pants that were taken from me the night of my arrest. Shortly after Officer Krauel’s lackadaisical investigation into Jennifer Ryan, Ryan left the state. This made any rectification, perhaps a civil lawsuit and/or appealing to a different arm of the justice system to get her prosecuted, even more complicated.
The Treachery of the News-Gazette
The Champaign Police Department was quick to use this incident to bolster their public image – just moments after my arrest (before anyone had even written a police report, it would seem), the Champaign Police were bragging on their Facebook and Twitter pages how quick, successful and brave they were at crime-solving. The heroic Lt. James Clark (who refused to identify himself, then shattered my car window) wrote a Facebook post immediately after my arrest describing the feats of the Champaign Police, and including my full name and age.
What was more devastating was the article in the News-Gazette wherein writer Mary Schenk partnered with Champaign Police Sgt. Bruce Ramseyer to write a narrative contradicted by evidence and police reports. Bruce Ramseyer was not on scene nor did he ever interact with me, nor my accuser, nor handle any part of the investigation (Ramseyer wasn’t even on shift that night). It is not clear why Schenk found it appropriate to use Ramseyer as her only source of information. Schenk mixes up which bar Ryan was at and who placed the 911 call. Schenk indicates that officers spotted me in the direction that the attacker ran, but they actually found me in the exact opposite direction. Schenk gets confused about the timeline, as it doesn’t take 14 minutes to drive 6 blocks. Schenk claims Ryan’s keys were stolen, but Ryan drove her Jeep to Quality after the robbery. Schenk claims I refused to roll down my window and come out, but it was rolled down partially to talk to police and I never refused to come out, I only asked questions as I feared for my safety. Schenk indicates that I refused to cooperate with officers at the jail whereas the jail intake room video confirms that I was courteous, and I simply said that I did not want to issue any statements as per my rights. Schenk indicates that I was intoxicated. In fact, 7 officers submitted police reports and none of them described erratic driving or drunk behavior and none of them said they personally believed I was intoxicated. Officers neither inquired about alcohol consumption nor administered a breathalyzer test. Unfortunate for me, I suppose, since it would have undoubtedly read zero and redeemed me further.
My ‘crime’ won me a giant header in the News-Gazette spanning across the entire page. For some reason more serious crimes, as well as the drowning death of a 4 year old girl, were only entered as short blurbs. Mary Schenk posted my full name, address, and mugshot on the News-Gazette website, where it remains to this day.
I have had to explain myself to numerous friends and neighbors who read and believed the News-Gazette article. Even family members questioned me, imagining from the tone of the article and the charges that I must have at least jokingly grabbed someone’s purse and then gotten into an actual tumble with the police. One close neighbor to whom I have spoken almost daily for over a decade was ‘thoughtful’ enough to offer to help me with my ‘drinking problem’ – he had read the News-Gazette article and concluded that it was so unthinkable that I would ever legitimately rob someone that the only plausible explanation was that I must have been drunk out of my mind.
I contacted both the News-Gazette and WCIA as both of those entities thought it sensible to post ludicrous stories about me, including photos of my face, my full name, and my address. I sent letters to them multiple times indicating that the evidence finds me completely innocent and that their stories were factually wrong. Neither the News-Gazette nor WCIA would respond to my letters. At time of writing, searching “Christopher Hansen Urbana” on Google still brings up the News-Gazette article as the first search result, and the WCIA article as the fourth result.
This ordeal has cost me countless thousands of dollars, many hundreds of hours, and unquantifiable stress and anxiety. I essentially stopped working for 2 months straight, and after 3 years, have barely begun to emotionally heal myself. My businesses operate almost entirely online and the News-Gazette and WCIA articles still persist and no doubt affect me in ways I do not even know about. I have had to nearly cease using my own name in the course of my usual business for fear that customers and clients might Google me. I have had dates cancelled because they found the News-Gazette article and the Champaign Police social media posts about me online. 3 years after acknowledging my innocence, the Champaign Police Department still has their Facebook and Twitter posts online, listing my complete name and indicating my likely guilt.
Warnings Unheeded – Tragic Avoidable Deaths at the Champaign County Jail
Concerning my jail experience, I met and spoke with about a dozen criminal attorneys in town, and probably another half dozen non-criminal or out of state criminal attorneys (friends of mine) about this. Most of the attorneys in town agree that the mock suicide-watch and accompanying gang-rape style pinning and stripping is frequently used by correctional officers and police to punish people they don’t like and/or to circumvent their rights by intimidating/torturing them into making incriminating statements. They also acknowledged that requests for medical attention are summarily denied, and this is regular practice at Champaign County Jail. Curiously, some of the criminal attorneys were some what apologetic for the jail guards—“they’re just trying to do their jobs” says one attorney. My general impression is that most criminal attorneys don’t care much for their own clients. In addition to speaking to many attorneys, I also met with Belden Fields, a UIUC Political Science Professor who studies human rights and was very involved with the Matt Rush fiasco (wherein Champaign Police Officer Matt Rush was found to have been involved in multiple instances of violence against citizens). Fields also acknowledged that various tactics for threatening and torturing arrestees are in common practice and what happened to me is fairly typical treatment. Furthermore, the threat of keeping someone in jail for inordinate periods of time and stripping them naked for refusing to answer questions is a clear violation of one’s Miranda rights.
The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office refused to fill most of my FOIA requests for security footage within the jail. Most notably, they refused to release footage of the gang-rape style stripping on the urine soaked floor, and they refused to release any audio at all. The audio would have shown my repeated requests for medical attention and repeated requests to make phone calls. Interestingly, Nancy Griffin, the FOIA Officer at the jail, claimed that no audio existed. When I pointed out to her that there are signs within the intake room indicating that audio recording is in progress, Griffin claimed “the signage is in error”. After the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office refused to fill my FOIA requests, I appealed the decision to the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. They declined my appeal, to which I responded with detailed letters warning about the conditions of the jail and lack of any oversight. Those letters were ignored.
A few months after my experience at the Champaign County Jail, another inmate, Toya Frazier, was given a similar treatment of solitary confinement, and when she made medical requests they were also denied by the same jail supervisor that declined my requests, Officer Arnold Mathews. According to her attorney, Shayla Maatuka, Frazier “cried out in pain, screaming and crying in her cell because of intense abdominal pain.” She pleaded for help and Officer Mathews responded by asking her to stop moaning and groaning, as it was waking the other inmates, and ordered that Frazier be moved to solitary confinement. Toya Frazier died in that cell, and there have since been additional inmate deaths due to medical neglect. This is the same jail wherein correctional officers were found to be torturing inmates by putting hoods on them and tasering them.
No doubt, most of you reading this are wondering if lawsuits against the Champaign Police, Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, and/or Jennifer Ryan Stundins are in the works. I spoke with numerous attorneys about possible lawsuits. The consensus is that I would likely lose against the police, mostly because you just do not win lawsuits against the police in Illinois. When I asked attorneys if suing the police would at least cause them to change their practices, I was laughed at. I was further informed that suing the police in a case like this may cost around $30,000. Multiple attorneys also warned me that I could be the victim of blowback from the Champaign Police Department. Perhaps most problematic, it seems there are not any attorneys in Champaign County who are willing to sue the Police under any circumstances. Sure enough, my research efforts found that pretty much all recent lawsuits against the Champaign Police have been handled by out-of-town attorneys.
I did eventually get connected with Shneur Nathan, an attorney from the Chicago-based Hale Law firm, who had handled multiple Malicious Prosecution and False Arrest cases against the Champaign Police. Unfortunately, just as we started to get the process moving, Nathan inexplicably excused himself from representing me just weeks before the statute of limitations for suing a public entity or the employees thereof (one year, in Illinois) expired. It turns out that Shneur Nathan was in the middle of some kind of conspiracy to funnel clients away from Hale Law Firm, and it seems I was one of those clients, and I might have been too inquisitive about how exactly he would be handling my case. Shortly thereafter, Hale Law Firm initiated a lawsuit against Shneur Nathan for his underhanded practices and theft of clients. It seems one cannot even begin to fight corruption in Illinois without tripping over other instances of corruption.
I quickly found another attorney, Dane Amundson at Meyer Capel in Champaign, who was enthusiastic about representing me. However, Amundson, like pretty much all attorneys in town, was unwilling take part in a lawsuit against the Champaign Police, indicating that the police department represented a significant portion of the Meyer Capel clientele, and other attorneys within Meyer Capel would object to such a lawsuit. Unable to include the Champaign Police and/or Champaign County Jail in a lawsuit, and out of time, my only option was to sue just Jennifer Ryan for Malicious Prosecution and False Arrest. Dane Amundson was highly enthusiastic and confident about the case but after filing the complaint and defending against Ryan’s motion to dismiss (a cost to me of about $6,000 to Meyer Capel law firm), Amundson suddenly became unresponsive – the once quick response rate turned into months of lingering. When I pressed Amundson to move forward with the next steps, he surprisingly discouraged me from proceeding further with the lawsuit. Despite repeated written attempts to fetch an explanation from Amundson for his bizarre flip-flop, none has been given. Long after filing the lawsuit, I came to find that Dane Amundson’s wife is Facebook friends with Jennifer Ryan Stundins. While this made me rather uncomfortable, there does not exist any evidence that this is the reason that Amundson became disinterested in the lawsuit.
In my particular case at least 35 different public workers (police, correctional officers, jail medical staff, judges and public attorneys) had to be complicit in this insanity. If at any time, anyone of them had asked themselves “Why exactly am I hurting this person?” and stood up to their peers, it could have simply stopped. Nurse Lois or Counselor Daniel Applegate could have reported on the jail conditions. On video, Officers Christopher M Chambers, Jon M Tatum, and Nathanael M Epling all discussed between themselves how crazy Lt. James Clark was for breaking my window, then expressed complete disbelief that the robbery could have occurred the way Jennifer Ryan described it. None of these officers took any action, or wrote anything in their reports about this. From the Illinois Attorney General to the various investigators involved– there is a long list of people that chose to keep their mouths shut in order to protect their own jobs and make their own lives simpler.
I realize some readers may ask why I did not open my car door more quickly when Champaign Police Officers first approached. It is possible that doing so would have saved me the cost of a broken window and some glass cuts, but given the temperament and issuance of threats by the officers on scene, my feeling at the time was that exiting the vehicle was likely to bring me significant bodily harm. With weapons out and pointed at me, I wanted a supervisor on scene to deescalate the situation. The officers were, from my perspective, reckless and dangerous. They seemed to act not like responsible adults, but more like violent and destructive children—Officer Chambers even joked with the operator from Reynolds Towing Service about how breaking my window “just makes the job more fun.” More to the point, whenever and however I exited my car, the string of events that followed would not have changed. The Champaign Police would have used a drunk witness to indict me for Class 2 Felony Robbery, and Jennifer Ryan would have done everything in her power to conceal her lies. Even if Ryan did not identify me, Champaign Police were still planning to take me to jail and tow my car for resisting arrest—in the dash cam footage, Officer Justin M Prosser and another officer can be heard discussing this plan before Jennifer Ryan even arrived on scene for the identification process. In other words, Champaign Police were prepared to put me in jail and charge me for the crime of resisting arrest, even though the entire altercation was a result of their own incompetence and belligerence. Immediately after my arrest, Officer Chambers tells Officer Tatum “I thought this was just going to be somebody just playing a joke on somebody else,” and Tatum replies, “I thought for sure, my god, there’s no way this guy is involved.” Right after that, when Champaign Police did not find a purse in my car, it sounds as though the officers are formulating other reasons to have pulled me over, but then the voice audio of the officers suddenly cuts out for the next five minutes of that dash cam video. Of course, none of the officers listed their doubts in their police reports. To me it seems rather clear: Champaign Police Officers are prepared to formulate stories, omit evidence, and perjure themselves to whatever extent they deem fit. The idea that these are the individuals that the public trusts to keep law and order just makes me feel sick.
Regarding classifications of felony robbery, it may interest the reader to know that had the Champaign Police found any kind of weapon on my person or in my car, I would have no doubt been charged with Armed Robbery, a Class X Felony which adds 15 years to any sentence. It just so happens that I have a Leatherman multi-tool (with folding knives) that I received as a gift 17 years ago when I earned my Eagle Scout rank. It is so useful I carry it on my belt almost all the time. I feel so lucky that I was not carrying it with me that night. The more severe Armed Robbery charges by the Champaign Police would have made it very difficult or even impossible to bond out of jail and perform all of the necessary investigating that eventually proved my innocence.
If I did not have easy access to the cash to bond out of jail and/or the resources and tenacity to gather up all of the evidence like I did, every bit of that evidence would have been erased. Neither the Champaign Police nor the Public Defender’s Office were going to go looking for it on their own. It took a lot of careful tugging at just the right strings to find out that Jennifer Ryan had retrieved her purse and other items. Performing that investigative work myself was the only way that information was going to be sifted out. In other words, if it were not me, but a poorer, less-connected person, there is no question in my mind that they would have been sitting in jail for months, enduring a criminal trial with Jennifer Ryan having no choice but to perpetuate her own lies, and the Champaign Police having no choice but to validate their reckless behavior. And if that suspect was a minority claiming innocence against a 47 year old white woman with connections, I am told by numerous criminal defenders, he could have easily been found guilty.
Based on a search of her social media accounts, Jennifer Ryan claims to have been robbed at least 5 times before my incident, including other incidents of having her purse and phone stolen. After my incident, Jennifer Ryan claimed to have been robbed again in December 2016, and just recently again in July 2018 and each time I have to wonder, who did Ryan attack this time? Including my own incident, this would make at least 8 times Ryan has claimed to have been robbed in the past few years alone. It seems people like Ryan, as well as the public servants she sends scrambling, can operate with complete impunity. I wonder, how many innocent people are in jail right now as a result of Ryan’s utterances and the unscrupulous actions of the police? In the police dash cam video, Ryan even makes mention of other robberies from her college days (which would have been 30 years ago). I would not be surprised if there were dozens more incidents involving Ryan between now and then. Ryan even writes on Facebook, “I don’t bring purses anywhere anymore, because they are always stolen” and “My car will always get broken into no matter what neighborhood I am in.” In reference to her many robberies Ryan writes, “I cannot tell you how many times this has happened.” Ryan has also claimed to have been a victim of cyber hacking numerous times, and indicates that she bought a new Taser because of her frequent altercations. Either Ryan is a statistical anomaly, or her powers of invention apply to more incidents than just mine. Curiously, Ryan also seems to have a racial bone to pick –regarding my incident she writes, “For the record, crazy white guy, just like every crazy white guy that has ever attacked me, crazy WHITE DUDE!” As I finalized this letter, I revisited the dash cam videos of Jennifer Ryan and Officer Katherine Thompson giggling and swearing in the police cruiser, and felt an intense fear when Officer Thompson told Ryan that she “did a really good job” and then suggested Ryan should start carrying a gun.
Even 3 years after the incident, I take medication to sleep at night and I seem to have permanently lost the ability to fall asleep naturally (such as a mid-day nap), no matter how sleepy I feel. This ordeal enters my mind many times a day, every day. There does not seem to be any possibility for justice and I do not see any path for emotional closure. I wonder what I did to deserve all of this,and then I remember that this kind of treatment is given to more unfortunate people every day. I wonder what it is that I am supposed to be doing to fix things, and I wonder if fewer people might have died if I had tried harder to warn officials about conditions at the jail.
I’m exhausted, and I have no idea where I am supposed to turn next, or whom to trust. I was warned by attorneys about defamation lawsuits and blowback from any or all of the law enforcement agencies in Champaign County for writing a letter like this. I was even warned about the real possibility of being charged criminally under the insane Illinois cyber-bullying law (720ILCS 5/12-7.5) which would put a person in prison just for communicating something that might make someone uncomfortable. Luckily, that absurd law was recently found unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court, but it is still technically on the books, and I would not be surprised if Jennifer Ryan and the Champaign Police Department used it against me. Still, I am tired of cowering and I see no other choice but to simply layout my story publicly and ready myself for the blowback.
Everything I have written here is backed up by video and audio files, testimony, police reports, and further physical evidence. Anyone who desires these files is welcome to contact me, and/or you can try your luck at getting the various entities to fill FOIA requests. I will also be uploading relevant files on CorruptCU’s Media Archive, and hosting them here permanently (unless Jennifer Ryan and/or the Champaign Police Department manage to shut me down). The videos linked in this letter are also available in the Media Archive in case Ryan and/or the Champaign Police manage to have my YouTube videos removed. I’ve combed through this letter many, many times, and fact-checked everything. If I do find that I have made any errors, I will update my article also post this information on this website.
As for what I hope to achieve with this letter: First, I would like to clear my own name, as I am growing quite tired of playing what I have come to call the“last-name game”, wherein I try to conceal my last name for as long as possible when meeting new people. Next, I would like to make people aware of how our local justice system actually operates. My interest here is not to suggest any specific ‘fixes’ (though some things should be obvious). One theme that I think is extremely clear is that there is a complete lack of personal responsibility within both the public and private entities mentioned. I do think some explanation is owed, at least by the various public officials and entities involved. Therefore, I am making the following inquisitions:
To the City of Champaign Mayor, City Council, & Police Department:
I would like to understand why Champaign Police Department officers refuse to identify themselves and explain what is happening when they stop a person. Persisting to refuse to identify themselves when asked, issuing threats of bodily harm, and refusing to bring in a supervisor all seem like actions intended only to intimidate and terrify citizens. Is this typical police protocol and what could possibly be the purpose of this?
I would like to know why your officers are threatening arrestees with violence, including sexually violent acts like being forcibly stripped naked if they elect their right to silence and don’t agree to answer questions. Isn’t this a violation of Miranda rights?
Why would your officers threaten violence against a citizen sitting in their car, then smash their car window and arrest them for, essentially, wearing jeans and a black t-shirt? Why are the officers not performing even a modicum of investigation to determine if a crime did or did not happen? After my arrest, Champaign Police Officers did not attempt to gather one bit of physical evidence or find other eyewitnesses – they didn’t even try to collect video footage from the vast array of security cameras in the area. Given how doubtful the officers seemed (some saying clearly on audio recordings that they didn’t believe I robbed Ryan), is it possible they didn’t do any investigative work because they already knew the robbery was an invention?
Does the Champaign Police Department find it suitable to use obviously substance-impaired witnesses to “positively identify” suspects? Officer Katherine Thompson testified in court to the validity of the “positive identification”. I was indicted solely on Thompson’s recitation of the identification process that she administered. However, Thompson did not find it suitable to mention in court that it was dark and the witness was drunk and without her glasses during the identification. Thompson also did not find it suitable to mention that she herself did not believe I was the right person. Thompson did find it suitable to bolster her report with fabrications about how suspicious I appeared that night. Would we not classify all of the above as blatant perjury by a police officer?
I invite any of the Champaign Police Officers involved to publicly explain their participation in what had nothing at all to do with service and protection, but was functionally closer to a kidnapping and sexual assault. I would like to know how your actions align with your oath and code of ethics. At a minimum, I am speaking to Nathanael M Epling, Katherine A Thompson, Jon M Tatum, Justin M Prosser, James Clark, Kurt Buckley, Christopher M Chambers, Bradley J Krauel, and Caleb Rice.
Does it appear as though this investigation was conducted in a thorough, precise, and professional manner, given that it may have resulted in a man going to prison for 7 years?
Why does the Champaign Police Department refuse to further investigate Jennifer Ryan’s false report of the robbery? Ryan seems to have some kind of blanket of protection from further investigation. I would like to know to what extent Ryan was able to cover up her crimes using her connections with the mayor, the police, and the businesses that failed to produce evidence.
Why does the Champaign Police Department post the names of the innocent people they’ve arrested on their social media accounts? I would like to know what kind of relationship the Champaign Police Department has with Mary Schenk at the News-Gazette. Schenk seems to be posting false information that does not even align with actual police reports. Why are officers like Bruce Ramseyer giving out inaccurate information and quotes to reporters in regards to cases with which they’re not remotely involved? I have searched through every FOIA request submitted to the Champaign Police Department in the last 5 years,and I cannot find any record of Mary Schenk ever submitting a FOIA request for anything. I find this unusual given that Schenk reports on crime every day. Is it true that Schenk writes all of her crime stories without any primary sources,or does she somehow get special access to these documents?
How does the City of Champaign plan to reconcile the story I’ve told here with their Mission and Values, namely “We take responsibility for the outcome of our actions and decisions” and “We hold ourselves and others accountable”?
I would like to know how the City of Champaign expects me to repair my reputation and remedy the damages that the City has inflicted. This is not a rhetorical inquiry, I quite seriously do not know what to do, and since it was the City of Champaign that originated this mess, it is your responsibility to take action. What actions, if any, will the Champaign Police Department take after contemplating my letter? Responsible men and women, people who have integrity, would admit their error and attempt to rectify it, not cover it up.
To the Champaign County Officials, and Sheriff’s Office:
I would like to know how the story I have given here holds up against your stated values of “transparency” and“ethical behavior” and your stated mission to “Manage safe and secure detention facilities.”
Why are detainees in the Champaign County Jail punished and/or threatened with disgusting and humiliating acts? Why would a prisoner not be allowed to make a phone call to at least notify family/friends where they are?
Why are your jail staff unilaterally declining medical requests? Why are medical personnel like Nurse Lois or Daniel Applegate failing to provide medical care to detainees and failing to speak out even when aware of improper treatment?
Why is your office refusing to fill all FOIA requests for video and audio within the jail? Is it the position of the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office that the jail should operate without oversight? I have reviewed the Illinois State Police reports about the deaths that have occurred in the Champaign County Jail over the past few years, and the accounts given by the Jail Officers and the State Police Officers do not align with the accounts given by inmates who witnessed the events. I believe there is a strong impetus for the jail staff to be excused from wrongdoing and the State Police Department is complicit. I do not believe there can be any accountability without citizen oversight. People are dying, and past Sheriff Dan Walsh is currently being sued for “failing to develop and implement policies and procedures to monitor and discipline jail employees to prevent illegal and unconstitutional behavior by the employees against inmates.” Operating surreptitiously is not working, and especially now that we have a new Sheriff in town, Dustin Heuerman, I would like to know what he plans to do about this.
To the Champaign County State’s Attorney, and the Champaign County Public Defender’s Office:
Part of the reason my criminal case became such a travesty is that the assigned prosecutor, Matthew P Banach, was on vacation during the time when the discovery process should have been underway. I would like an explanation for this catastrophe, and an explanation for why the State’s Attorney did not drop the criminal charges after I presented multiple infallible alibis. Is this the fault of your office, or that of Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones, or both?
I would like to know why the Champaign County State’s Attorney ignored my FOIA request dated November 9, 2018. The FOIA law requires you to respond.
To date, Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones has refused to give me a copy of my own criminal case file. This seems like a clear constitutional violation, and no other criminal attorney in Champaign County follows this bizarre practice. Janie Miller-Jones also claimed that she was not subject to my FOIA requests for my own case files, claiming that it would violate attorney-client confidentiality. I still do not have possession of some of the discovery files that helped prove my innocence, and soon they will be destroyed. I find this unacceptable, and now I am asking publicly for an answer to my plea.
I would like an answer from the State’s Attorney on the practices of the Champaign Police and the Sheriff’s Office. I have made several well-founded accusations of corrupt behavior within these institutions and, for the benefit of the public, they should be taken seriously, and they should be investigated. I would also like to know what the State’s Attorney plans to do about Jennifer Ryan Stundins. Should Ryan be investigated, or does the State’s Attorney not concern themselves with falsely reported crimes and destruction of evidence?
To the Illinois Attorney General (both incoming and outgoing):
The Illinois Attorney General sides with the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office when they have denied FOIA requests, essentially allowing jails in Illinois to operate without citizen oversight. I would like to know why my reports of officer misconduct, mistreatment of detainees, and withholding of medical treatment in the Champaign County Jail were not investigated. Had someone paid attention to my warnings, or even just allowed me gather, through FOIA, what I am legally entitled to, history could be very different. I wonder, would the Illinois Attorney General have had the means to prevent the deaths that occurred at the jail in the months that followed my complaint?
I would like to know what our new Attorney General, Kwame Raoul, plans to do about the systemic FOIA failure both within our public institutions and within the Office of the Public Access Counselor within the Attorney General itself. Even the Champaign County State’s Attorney will not comply with the FOIA law. In addition to my FOIA efforts described earlier in this letter, I have appended a description of my efforts from the past couple months, which was also rife with examples of corruption.
To the News-Gazette & WCIA:
You should be ashamed of yourselves. The public looks to news organizations to expose the ill behavior of institutions. Instead, you are just peddling cheap click-bait and refusing to shoulder the responsibility that comes with your reporting.
Why do you post names and addresses of innocent people in your news reports and social media accounts? Why have you not responded to my requests to remove your libelous articles that have damaged, and still are damaging, my reputation?
Specifically to the News-Gazette, what exactly is being accomplished with Mary Schenk’s inaccurate, careless reporting and libelous social media posts? Mary Schenk seems to report exclusively on crime. Why is there almost never a follow-up story after the News-Gazette posts their click-bait style mugshot articles?
I would also like an explanation from WCIA about Maggie Hockenberry’s factually incorrect story. Where does Hockenberry get her source material and why do you not do follow-up stories on your crime reporting?
This letter is being sent to all of the entities and persons listed here. You are welcome to forward this letter to whom ever you wish, and you are encouraged to contact any of the people in the list if you think it worthwhile.
Christopher Hansen, Urbana IL
Thank you for taking the time to read this rather long letter. I do not consider myself a skilled writer, and this letter took me an inordinate amount of time to complete. I appreciate you taking time to read it. You are encouraged to forward it to whomever you wish. You are also welcome to contact me with questions and comments, or to obtain original source materials: firstname.lastname@example.org You may also view updates and post comments on this website.