Burkart raises competency issue; Napp says attempt is 'disgraceful'

By Ann Maher | Nov 1, 2012

(Hamel attorney Thomas Burkart, a Republican, faces Associate Judge Kyle Napp, a Democrat, in a contest for the circuit seat being vacated by Charles Romani).

Candidate for Madison County circuit judge Kyle Napp said it is "disgraceful" that her opponent Thomas Burkart is injecting the prosecution of twice-convicted murderer Jeramey Brown into their race.

Burkart claims that Napp, as a former prosecutor in the Madison County State’s Attorney’s office, mishandled a second prosecution of Brown in 2008. Though Brown was found guilty of murder the second time, Burkart takes issue with, among other things, what he says was illegal wiretapping of Brown’s phone calls to his attorney and the reading of Brown’s mail while he was jailed in Madison County.

Burkart said he is raising the issue because it goes to the “competency” of his opponent.  He said that Brown's second conviction may be in jeopardy due to “recurrent prosecutorial misconduct.”

“She was either knowingly doing something wrong or she was not competent to know,” he said. “It’s unfamiliarity of the law.”

Napp emphatically denied Burkart’s claims. She said nothing was done illegally in the handling of Brown’s prosecution.  She said that by law, the State can record phone conversations and read some mail. She said that this disclosure to prisoners is “posted all over the jail.”

She said prosecutors had been shown letters that Brown had sent from jail to his family that indicated he was attempting to intimidate witnesses.

She also said that “nobody ever listened to conversations of Jeramey Brown and his lawyer.”

After detailing a grisly account of the murder of Michael W. Keller of Granite City in April 2001, Napp said, “It’s incomprehensible how anyone could try to use the most vicious crime and defend that man (Brown).

“Jeramey Brown is an animal. He is the most evil person I have ever encountered.”

By the time the case went to trial the second time, Napp was serving as associate judge, she said.

In June 2008, a jury found Brown, then 33, guilty of first degree murder for helping to torture and kill Keller of Granite City during a botched burglary at his home.

Napp said that Brown and three others broke into Keller's home, but were confronted by Keller who came home early from work.

She said he was beaten, his mouth was duct-taped and his body was duct-taped to a chair before he was stabbed multiple times. Keller was discovered days later in a grain silo in Madison, she said.

Shortly after the murder, Brown and his co-conspirators used Keller’s credit card to buy Cardinal’s clothing at Sears, she said.

Brown was originally convicted in 2003 and sentenced to 70 years in prison. An appeals court later overturned the ruling holding that the defense mishandled matters.

Napp said the judge presiding in 2008 (James Hackett) remarked in the second trial that his only regret was that he could not impose a greater sentence.

She said Brown’s first conviction was reversed “not because there were legal wiretaps. The appeals court said that Jeramey Brown did not have effective counsel,” she said.

She said that at the time Brown was held at the Madison County jail, police obtained a legal eavesdropping order.

“Burkart says it was illegal, that is not the case at all,” she said.

Burkart said his concerns involving Brown also center on settlements entered into by Madison County in two of three federal civil rights lawsuits Brown filed over his treatment in jail or the handling of his prosecution.

He questioned a $9,000 payment made by Madison County to Brown’s mother Kimberly Endicott in February of this year, calling it “hush money."

He also takes issue with a 2011 confidential settlement of another one of three federal civil suits filed by Brown.

"The County settled this suit without ever denying the allegations of impropriety," Burkart stated.  "What this settlement cost the County remains unknown because the agreement was not filed."

Napp said she has “no idea” why the county made payment to Brown's mother.

She said she knew that Brown had filed numerous lawsuits from jail, including the three federal civil rights suits. She said he has filed at least four state court suits against various Madison County defendants.

“He decided to become a Muslim in jail,” she said. One of his suits claimed proper accommodations were not made for his prayer time, she said. The suit also claimed that he was given pork to eat and that he was not allowed certain religious reading materials, as well as other religious freedom infringements, she said.

Napp said it would be difficult for the County to defend all of the litigation. She said settling a case could be “cheaper” than hiring attorneys to defend litigation.

Napp said she would not let Burkart’s attack on her record “drag her down.”

She said she has attempted to keep the election about “my character and qualifications,” not to drag an opponent “through the mud and hope something sticks.”

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