Court Watch: Trial Set for Animal Rescue Owner

Dazzle's owner goes to trial March 7. Also, arraignment postponed for man accused of setting fire to his family's south suburban restaurant.

The Southland's major criminal and civil cases heard in Cook County and Will County courts this week.

Leading the Docket

TINLEY PARK — Trial starts March 7 for Dawn Hamill, the owner of Dazzle’s Painted Pastures Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, which was raided nearly one year ago. She faces .

More than 100 animals, including a dead cat and horse, were seized from Hamill’s Tinley Park property, which prosecutors have painted as a den of feces and urine, with inadequate space and heat.

When put on the stand last month for a pretrial issue, Hamill described an environment of “healthy” and “playful” animals, though she admitted that the sanctuary had been twice cited for unsanitary conditions by the Illinois Department of Agriculture in recent months.

Steven Decker, one of her attorneys, contends that statements made in the search warrant leading to the raid were deliberately false and relied on questionable sources, including an inspector with the animal crimes unit of the sheriff’s office.

The defense has on the grounds that police lacked probable cause. Their argument hinged mostly on the word of a veterinarian familiar with Hamill’s animals, which was ultimately deemed irrelevant by Judge Christopher J. Donnelly.

Cook County

OAK FOREST — Pretrial hearings for David Baitman, accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman, were continued until March 1 as attorneys for both sides carry on their investigations. A former Village of Oak Forest attorney who presided over the local ticket court, Baitman has been indicted on 22 counts related to sexual assault and kidnapping. According to police, in September he attacked a woman moving out of his home, molesting her and periodically threatening her with a gun overnight.

OAK LAWN — Pretrial hearings for James West, 26, and Lauren Papiez, 20, whom are accused of , were continued until March 30. As a condition of bail, Papiez is supposed to have no contact whatsoever with minors, but has been given permission by the court to visit her niece so long as her parents or grandparents supervise. West’s criminal history in Cook County since turning 18 is extensive, consisting of 11 convictions ranging from telephone harassment to aggravated battery.

PALOS PARK — Hui Zheng, a Chinese-American accused of setting fire to his family’s restaurant in Worth, has been indicted on two counts of arson, a Class 2 felony with a maximum penalty of seven years behind bars. Arraignment was postponed until Feb. 3 by the state. Zheng has worked at the restaurant since it opened in 2008, and, according to Village of Worth clerk Bonnie Price, his name is listed on the original and latest applications for a business license.

Will County

NEW LENOX — Prosecutors continue to collect and exchange evidence against Rodney Julun, who’s charged with the murder of Dwight Jones and slated to be back in court on Feb. 29. Meanwhile, final pretrial hearings are set Feb. 3 for two Chicago men who, police said, helped Julun rob the murdered New Lenox man’s home. John White, 20, and David Reed, 23, could provide a jury with different version of events at trial.

FRANKFORT — A Frankfort woman was sentenced to five years behind bars with the possibility of an alternative prison boot camp program for selling Ecstasy in the Naperville area. According to Sun-Times Media, Destinee Clementi, 20, was arrested by Naperville police in September 2010, following a month-long investigation, with $4,000 worth of Ecstasy pills in her possession.

On the Docket Next Week


Mohammed Shaban and Akram Alshoweat are slated for one last hearing before trial, which begins Feb. 8


A judge will hear arguments about whether reckless homicide defendant Nicholas Sord violated the terms of bond by testing positive for opiates on a recent drug test


Four young men accused of robbing and murdering John and Maria Granat, of Palos Township


Hui Zheng, accused of setting fire to his family’s restaurant in Worth

John White and David Reed, accused of robbing a murdered New Lenox man’s home


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