Two recent incidents where criminals simply walked out of the Wadsworth Municipal Courthouse are forcing a judge to take a serious look at security.
Judge Stephen McIlvaine has been on the bench for 21 years. During that time, he has only seen two cases where someone ran from the courtroom following sentencing, both in the last six months.
The most recent incident involved 29-year-old Jeremy Vance. He was sentenced by the judge to 90 days in jail for receiving stolen property, with credit for time served. Instead of walking into the holding cell, Vance walked out of the courtroom and then ran from the courthouse.
In this case, no one chased after him.
“We know where he lives, where he works, his history of work, we know his girlfriend, where they live, we probably know more about him than he does so there’s no reason to chase him,” McIlvaine said.
Sure enough, Vance was caught near his home and brought back into custody within the hour — with an additional escape charge and six months tacked onto his sentence. According to a police report, his dog bit an officer's hand during the short foot chase. The officer fired a shot, but the dog was not injured.
Not chasing from the courthouse? That’s a lesson they learned from the incident in November.
In that case, Cyrus Matthews ran from the courtroom and was chased by the bailiff. He then panicked and took off in his car, hitting speeds of 90 miles per hour. Mathews slammed into an SUV several miles away and injured a family of three. He was also charged with escape and eluding as well.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking, it’s not like they’re gonna get away,” McIlvaine said.
Now, the judge said they need to re-evaluate their security, possibly hiring an off-duty officer or auxiliary officer during sentencing cases. Sentencing only occurs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, for roughly half an hour, so McIlvaine believes the cost won’t be prohibitive.
In both cases, the judge said no one in the courtroom was in danger or threatened at any point. McIlvaine's courtroom only handles misdemeanor cases and non-violent offenders.