From PW & TW–links to videos that show they were beloved by Fred Stegall

Two weeks ago, a jury in Knox County, Illinois found testamentary documents leaving farmland to Penny and Tonny Williamson were invalid due to fraud and coercion.

But those documents are not and the case is up on appeal. The jurors were mistaken and Decedent Fred clearly loved Penny and Tonny Williamson, as evidenced by these videos:

  1. Penny and Tonny can always stay with me.

  1. I want Penny and Tonny to take care of me

  1. I want my life prolonged for as long as possible

  1. I don’t want to sue Penny and Tonny

  1. I don’t have a lawyer (referring to Blake)

  1. Haynes takes me to places to do things I don’t understand

  1. Penny and Tonny to take care of my trust (property) forever and ever

And here is yet another Post Trial motion which explains as follows:

RIFLE CLUB, an Illinois not-for-profit )
Corporation, and THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE )
OF PEORIA, an Illinois Religious corporation, )
Plaintiffs, )
vs. ) Case No. 21-MR-21
Defendants. )
NOW COMES Defendant, TONNY J. WILLIAMSON (“Tonny”), by and through her
attorney, JEFFREY A. RYVA of QUINN JOHNSTON, and, for her Post Trial Motion, states:

  1. A Court must enter a directed verdict when all the evidence, viewed in its light
    most favorable to the opponent, so overwhelmingly favors movant that no contrary verdict
    would ever stand. Pedrick v. Peoria Eastern Railroad Company, 37 Ill.2d 494 (1967). In a
    civil case to which the clear and convincing standard applies, the judge must consider the
    applicable burden when deciding whether to send a case to the jury; the determination must be guided by the prism of the substantive evidentiary standards that apply to the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986).
    Fraud Claim
  2. Turning first to Plaintiffs’ fraudulent misrepresentation claim, it should not have
    survived. The allegation drawn directly from the Second Amended Complaint (p. 7 para. 43 D.) was simply that Defendants made a fraudulent misrepresentation of fact as “to the effect of the Irrevocable Trust, i.e., that Stegall could amend its beneficial provisions.” Plaintiffs’ original Proposed Jury Instruction 14 again described the fraud claim solely in terms of a
    misrepresentation to Stegall “that he could change the beneficiaries of the trust document.”
    Their Instruction 20 properly placed a clear and convincing burden of proof upon Plaintiffs for fraud. However, there was not a shred of evidence that Defendants made any statement about irrevocability of the trust or the ability to “amend its beneficial provisions” or “change the beneficiaries,” whether true or false. Attorney Holland exclusively communicated with Stegall about these issues. Plaintiffs’ fraud case failed at the first element, because there was no representation made at all.
  3. Continuing through the elements, Defendants did not make a false statement;
    they did not make any statement. There could not have been a false statement of material fact, obviously, if there was no statement made true or false. See also discussion of mutual mistake claim below regarding the “falsity” and “materiality” issues in conjunction with the fact that Stegall could at any time while alive have directed property transfers for his enjoyment or utilized a decanting power under the then exiting Trust Code. Defendants could not have intended to make a statement to induce Stegall to rely upon it if they never made one at all. Stegall could not, as a matter of law, have reasonably believed or justifiably relied upon “the statements” if none were made in any event. None of these fraud elements were proved one iota and certainly not by clear and convincing evidence.
  4. A fraudulent misrepresentation to be actionable must be one of fact. Plaintiffs
    alleged that the supposed fraud related to the effect of the Irrevocable Trust. This was a legal statement if anything. A misrepresentation of law is not a misrepresentation of fact and
    accordingly is not actionable. Hanning v. Murphy, 83 Ill.App.3d 1130 (1980).
    Penny’s Motion to Continue had summarized her view:
    The first proposition that Plaintiffs must prove is “that defendants made
    or caused to be made false statements of material fact to Stegall.” No
    witness has testified to any specific false statement of fact either
    defendant made to Mr. Stegall. Plaintiffs allege that the attorney who
    drafted Mr. Stegall’s Trust made a false statement of law regarding the
    ability to modify the irrevocable trust document. There is no evidence
    that Defendants had any direct or indirect involvement in the making of
    this statement.
    Mistake Claim
  5. Similarly, Plaintiffs’ mutual mistake theory was woefully insufficient. The
    Second Amended Complaint alleged at p. 7 para. 43 E., that the mutual mistake of fact on the part of Stegall and Holland was regarding the effect of the designation of the trust as irrevocable “in that both believed that Stegall could modify the beneficial provisions of the trust at a later date.” Plaintiffs’ Instruction 14 was in substantially the same form and content. And their No. 22 required a clear and convincing burden of proof of mutual mistake.
  6. As noted above for fraud, this was a legal issue, not a factual one. A mutual
    mistake must be of fact, not of law, and it is not a mistake of fact if the claimed fact is as to
    what the law is. Cameron v. Bogusz, 305 Ill.App.3d 267 (1999). In McCarthy v. McCarthy, 9
    Ill. App. 2d 462 (1956), the Court rejected a mistake claim stating: “We do not think there was a mistake. Plaintiff had a mistaken opinion of the legal effect of the document. In Holbrook v. Tomlinson, 304 Ill. 579, the court said that the erroneous advice of an attorney is not sufficient ground for relief in equity as to an alleged mistake in a written instrument.”
  7. Here, the only evidence Plaintiffs adduced is that neither Holland nor Stegall
    were mistaken. Stegall was never shown the internal memo Holland did for the file after Fred
    left. He cannot be mistaken about something he was never shown. The letter exhibit said clearly the trust could not be altered. If Stegall saw anything it was that, as Holland testified the Memo was not seen by Fred. Holland said Stegall left with a clear understanding of what he had done and signed. This included the issue Plaintiffs have raised about amending. Holland’s letter he recalled showing Fred at least said he should call Holland if he later had questions – and Holland never received a call back from Stegall. Even if somehow Stegall was confused or even mistaken, this does not mean that Holland was.
  8. As additionally noted in Penny’s Motion to Continue, there was, as a matter of
    law, no mistake and certainly not one of fact per paragraph SECOND of the trust document:
    While the terms of an irrevocable trust cannot be changed, that does not
    mean that the transfer of property he was considering to the Galesburg
    Rifle Club could not be achieved through other means.
    i. FIRST, the co-trustees had discretion to distribute any trust
    property in accordance with an ascertainable standard for, inter alia, Mr.
    Stegall’s, “comfort, companionship [and] enjoyment.” At any time during
    his lifetime, Mr. Stegall could have instructed his co-trustees to transfer
    the 35-acre tract to the Galesburg Rifle Club under this standard.
    ii. SECOND, an irrevocable trust does not necessarily mean that it
    is unchangeable. Irrevocable trust terms can be altered when some or part
    of the trust’s assets are poured into a new trust with different terms
    through the process of decanting. The Illinois Legislature enacted a
    decanting provision when it repealed the former Trusts and Trustees Act
    (Article 12 of the Trust Code, titled “Trust Decanting,” defines and
    authorizes the exercise of decanting power or which means the power of
    an authorized fiduciary under this Article to distribute property of a first
    trust to one or more second trusts or to modify the terms of the first trust.
    760 ILCS 3/1202(4). This Article applies to an express trust that is
    irrevocable. 760 ILCS 3/1 203(a).
  9. The new Code became effective in January 2020. The evidence clearly showed
    that Attorney Blake, who purports to concentrate in this area, represented Stegall throughout the period from July 6, 2020, through the date of Fred’s passing in early 2022. He obviously knew per his admission when testifying that the Trust existed at least by early 2021. The whole basis of this very suit filed in February 2021 was that the July 2, 2020 trust document was no good or at least mistakenly signed. That entire time a decanting power would have been available to do what Plaintiffs claim could not have been done after July 2, 2020. That no one had Stegall try a
    decanting process before he passed is not Defendants’ fault; in actuality, such circumstance
    completely precludes any notion that the supposed mutual mistake of fact was even material.
    See Keller v. State Farm, 180 Ill. App. 3d 539 (materiality is an element of a mistake claim).
    See also Village of Oak Park v. Schwerdtner, 288 Ill. App. 3d 716 (a person’s mistake about the
    effect of an instrument is not sufficient to void it).
  10. Two attorneys (Cassidy and Egan) testified further that, even with an irrevocable
    trust document, if the settlor, trustee and beneficiary all agree to do a transaction that might
    otherwise not be directly allowed in the document this can be effectuated. The evidence even
    produced by Plaintiffs showed Defendants said they were just managing Fred’s property and
    otherwise assisting him in 2021, when he had not been cared for in the least by others. There is
    no evidence then other than that Fred enjoyed being with Defendants and still trusted them. Yet
    there was no evidence offered to show Stegall ever even sought to have any property transfer
    occur by agreement. Again, this shut down any claim that any mistake here, or misstatement,
    was material.
    Mental Capacity Claim
  11. Regarding the temporary incapacity allegations, the Court must again focus upon
    what was alleged. The Second Amended Complaint, in paragraph 24, stated that Stegall would
    have been meeting with Attorney Holland at 1:30 p.m. on July 2, 2020. Paragraph 35 then
    stated “Stegall was seen in the emergency room at OSF at 9:18 p.m. suffering from dehydration
    and hyponatremia – with symptoms documented as confusion and disorientation.” The
    condition was only listed as mild. No evidence was presented of an actual cause and effect.
    And there was no proof that this alleged condition of ill-being existed at the time Stegall and
    Holland had met. The only actual evidence at that time was that Fred was fine then. There was
    no explanation offered by any competent medical testimony that such alleged confusion and
    disorientation eight hours after the Stegall/Holland meeting had anything to do with what
    happened essentially a whole work-day earlier. And it was not severe enough certainly to permit
    a reasonable inference Holland was wrong at the time and when he testified.
  12. Moreover, the test of mental incapacity to make a Will or Trust is not whether
    someone is confused or disoriented later. As noted in Plaintiffs’ Instruction 19, the sole
    questions are whether the Testator had the ability to know the natural objects of his bounty and
    property interests and formulate a plan to dispose of them. The test is not whether Fred knew
    these but only if he was capable of knowing them. The law presumes soundness of mind, which
    Plaintiffs correctly agreed must be disproved by clear and convincing evidence. See Instruction
  13. Fred’s capacity could not be inferred merely from old age, physical illness or defective
    memory. In re Estate of Gruske, 179 Ill. App. 3d 675, 678 (1989) Again, not one morsel of
    proof was offered that Stegall, when with Holland, lacked any of the capacity required by
    Illinois law. Interestingly, Plaintiffs relied upon a legal document from the very next day that
    Stegall purportedly signed. Once more, there was no medical testimony to explain how Stegall’s
    mental capacity could have returned so soon afterwards and yet his alleged lack of capacity can
    be retroactively established somehow to when he was with Holland.
    Undue Influence
  14. One of Plaintiffs’ claims was based upon establishing a presumption of undue
    influence. As Plaintiffs’ Jury Instructions conceded, there must be proof, by clear and
    convincing evidence, that there was a relationship between Defendants and Stegall, whereby
    they exercised dominance over him, and Defendants caused the preparation of the documents
    Stegall signed on July 2, 2020.
  15. On the first element discussed, Plaintiffs did not establish a fiduciary relationship
    as a matter of law stemming from any power of attorney document signed by Stegall before July
    2, 2020. As a matter of law, the health care POA given Penny in mid-June 2020 did not create a
    fiduciary relationship as to property matters. In re Estate of Stahling, 2013 IL App (4th)
  16. The June 30, 2020 POA document specifically stated it never created any authority
    unless and until Stegall was determined to be disabled. This is quite like a successor agent or
    trustee who has no power until another event occurs. There was no evidence that this “trigger”
    ever occurred such that Defendants had a formal POA principal-agent relationship with Stegall.
  17. The Supreme Court in In re Estate of Shelton, 2017 IL 121199 recited these
    governing principles. The Power of Attorney Act, which codifies an agent’s fiduciary duty,
    recognizes that it is the agent’s exercise of power pursuant to the authorizing document which
    triggers the agent’s duty to the principal. … By definition, a successor agent’s authority to act
    on behalf of the principal is contingent upon the initial agent’s resignation, death,
    incapacitation, or refusal to serve. … Until one of these events occurs, the successor agent has
    no authority to act. Under the Power of Attorney Act, if an individual cannot exercise the
    powers granted by the agency, he has no duty to act in good faith for the principal’s benefit. 755
    ILCS 45/2-7(a) (West 2010). Thus, we can infer that the Power of Attorney Act does not
    impose any duties on a successor agent until that person is authorized to exercise the powers set
    forth in the power of attorney. A written power of attorney must be strictly construed so as to
    reflect the clear and obvious intent of the parties.” Fort Dearborn Life Insurance Co. v.
    Holcomb, 316 Ill. App. 3d 485, 499 (2000)
  18. To create any fiduciary relationship, the claimed fiduciary must accept and
    exercise the powers delegated by the other person. The execution of a statutory short form
    power of attorney, alone and without evidence of acceptance by the named agent, is insufficient
    to create a fiduciary relationship between the principal and that agent. See Stahling v. Koehler,
    2013 IL App (4th) 120271. A POA must be construed to only determine what powers exist in
    the present sense. Id.
  19. In re Estate of Coffman, 2022 IL App (2d) 210053, governs. Drawing on
    Stahling, and citing Shelton, the Court recognized that for a fiduciary relationship to create the
    presumption it must be narrowly construed focusing on whether the supposed agent actually
    accepted and exercised an existing power, before execution of the contested document,
    regarding that specific transaction. An action taken after the will was signed and as to a different
    event did not qualify.
  20. The Court relied upon three provisions of Coffman’s POA document that are
    exactly the same as Stegall’s June 30, 2020 document. The first stated: “THIS FORM DOES
    2 Intro paragraph. The second was: “The agent will be under no duty to exercise granted powers
    or to assume control of or responsibility for the principal’s property or affairs; but when granted
    powers are exercised, the agent will be required to use due care to act for the benefit of the
    principal in accordance with the terms of the statutory property power ….” Id. p.7 two-thirds of
    the way through Sec. 3-4. The third gave the alleged “agent” no power to make or change a
    will. Id. p.10 from section (n). Because of these restrictions, no fiduciary relationship was
    determined to exist, as a matter of law.
  21. The “relationship” issue should have been disposed of by directed verdict. Other
    than fiduciary relationships created as a matter of law, such a relationship only arises where one
    party asserts dominance over the other with resulting dependence on the other as the dominant
    personality. The dominant party must accept the confidence and maintain a resulting
    superiority over the subservient party. In re Estate of Kieras, 167 Ill.App.3d 275 (1988).
  22. Here, there simply was no evidence whatsoever of Defendants accepting and
    exercising such a dominance, superiority, and influence over Stegall. The jury instructions
    required proof by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant exercised dominance over
    the other individual at the time the document was signed. Such exercise of dominance can only
    be established by proof that is “clear, convincing, and so strong, unequivocal and unmistakable
    as to lead to but one conclusion.” Swenson v. Wintercorn, 92 Ill. App. 2d 88, 100 (1968). There
    was no evidence of this. Mere speculation was not enough.
  23. There was another flaw in Plaintiffs’ case. There was no evidence of the kind
    and quality that the Illinois reviewing courts insist upon under the causation element for raising
    the presumption. For instance, in Anthony v. Anthony, 20 Ill.2d 584 (1960), the case was taken
    from the jury by directed verdict. The beneficiary had driven the testator to a location where his
    lawyer was and “took him in” to the lawyer’s actual office. The beneficiary was not in the
    presence of the testator when he signed the Will. That individual was in the outer office when
    the document was signed. There was no proof that the beneficiary had attempted to persuade
    the testator to talk to an attorney regarding what his estate plan should be.
  24. In In re Estate of Walls, 203 Ill.App.3d 574 (1990), the Appellate Court noted
    that more than the mere existence of a relationship between beneficiary and testator must be
    shown to raise the presumption; the beneficiary must have participated in procuring the
    execution of the Will. The trial court granted judgment N.O.V. on the lack of evidence of such
    causation. The beneficiary had accompanied the testator to the lawyer’s office. But there was
    no evidence the beneficiary discussed with the testator what the terms of his Will should be, and
    no evidence either that he had secured witnesses for the decedent. The opinion states that “the
    evidence presented, without more, showed the decedent initiated the idea of changing his Will
    for reasons that may never be known.” Id. at 581. The Appellate Court also made clear that the
    plaintiff’s argument about conflicting statements between trial and deposition testimony was of
    no moment. While the Plaintiffs had argued this was substantive evidence of undue influence,
    the Court noted there was no case which supported that proposition and: “further, while the fact
    [the beneficiary] gave conflicting testimony reflects on his credibility, it does not constitute
    evidence of procurement of the Will, which plaintiffs wholly failed to prove.” Id.
  25. In re Estate of Letsche, 73 Ill.App.3d 643 (1979), involved the defendant
    testifying she had nothing to do with the actual preparation of the Will. She was not present
    when it was signed. She merely read the lawyer over the phone what the testator stated he
    wanted. This was not sufficient participation whatsoever, and a directed verdict for the
    respondent was affirmed.
  26. Even if the presumption case had been made, the evidence presented to the Court
    was sufficient to rebut it and eliminate the presumption claim from the case. This was a question
    of law for the Court based upon all the evidence heard. The cases suggest that only if the
    defendant-lawyer is the one who does the will and receives a significant benefit does the
    defendant have a clear and convincing burden. If “some evidence” comes in for other types of
    relationships, the presumption drops from the case.
  27. Franciscan Sisters v. Dean, 95 Ill. 2d 452 (1983), held even if clear and
    convincing evidence were required for a lawyer to rebut the presumption, he had done so on
    facts indistinguishable from ours: “We now find that measured by a “clear and convincing”
    standard, the evidence brought forward by Mr. Dean was sufficient to rebut the presumption of
    undue influence. The appellate court was correct in recognizing the critical question to be Mrs.
    Messmer’s state of mind on February 7, 1978, the day that she signed the will. The time the will
    was executed is the period we must scrutinize; what Mrs. Messmer felt on a prior occasion or at
    a later date is irrelevant. It was established that although the testator was old, she was alert and
    intelligent. She managed her own personal and business affairs prior to and during the period in
    which the contested will was executed. [Both witnesses] concluded that the will represented
    Mrs. Messmer’s wishes [and] … were convinced that she was aware that Mr. Dean was made a
    substantial beneficiary under the will and that is what she wanted to do. We conclude that
    the evidence Mr. Dean presented is sufficient to overcome the presumption of undue influence.
    In accord with Thayer’s theory in effectively rebutting the presumption, the “bubble” has burst
    and the presumption of undue influence has vanished.” This Court was bound to follow this
    precedent and should have stricken the presumption claim from the case.
  28. The undue influence verdict cannot be sustained. Allowing the jury to rule on
    the presumption case made moot whether regular undue influence was found. The presumption
    case should not have been allowed to the jury and certainly not on instructions with an easier
    burden of proof to raise the presumption Defendants actually rebutted.
    Punitive Damages Claim
  29. The claim for punitive damages should have been dismissed outright. The fraud
    claim upon which it is predicated failed, and so too must that component. It is a question of
    law whether the facts of the particular case bring it within the rule in which punitive damages
    may be assessed. Eshelman v. Rawalt, 298 Ill. 192, 198 (1921); the rule stated therein is:
    “Punitive, vindictive or exemplary damages are allowed in this State where a wrongful act is
    characterized by circumstances of aggravation, … but to warrant an allowance of such
    damages the act complained of must not only be unlawful but must partake of a wanton and
    malicious nature. … The courts recognizing the doctrine within its proper scope ought to
    exercise a high degree of watchfulness to prevent it from being perverted and extended
    beyond the real principles upon which it is based by allowing plaintiffs, through the
    instrumentalities of instructions to the jury, to characterize the acts of the defendant with
    degrees of enormity and turpitude which the law does not affix to them.” Id. at 197.
    Plaintiffs’ claim just did not meet the strict test.
  30. For the same reasons set forth above, a new trial is at least required on all counts
    and claims. In the alternative, the balance of this Motion addresses many other claimed errors
    before and at trial. Each is sufficient alone to require a new trial. However, Tonny strongly
    urges that it is the cumulative or collective effect of all or at least many of them which denied
    Defendants a fair trial. See People v. Redmon, 2022 IL App (3d) 190167 (Illinois recognizes
    concept that individual claims of error must also be considered in their totality to determine if
    their cumulative effect denied a party a fair trial). Also, Illinois courts will reverse a verdict,
    whether punitive or otherwise, like for compensatory relief, if based upon passion or prejudice
    of the jury. Richardson v. Chapman, 175 Ill. 2d 98 (1997). The arguments made in Section IV
    below therefore do not apply only to the ridiculous punitive damage awards, but, on their face,
    in amount and timing considerations, show Defendants are entitled to a completely new trial. If
    there ever has been a case where passion and prejudice were written all over, it is one where a
    jury basically seeks to destroy parties by awarding sums many times their net worths.
  31. A number of motions to extend discovery and continuance requests were made
    by both Defendants and erroneously denied. For reasons stated therein, those motions should
    have been granted. Prejudicial error occurred because of those rulings.
  32. There was a substantial change in circumstances since the Court Order of
    September 9, 2022, confirming rulings made September 7, 2022, setting this case for a February
    27, 2023 trial date. At the time, there was no Will Contest even on file. This meant the Court
    had not fully resolved whether the cases dealing with the July 2, 2020 and July 6, 2020
    documents should be tried together, after a reasonable period of discovery in the Will Contest.
  33. There also remained an unresolved Motion to Remove F&M Bank as executor,
    and counsel, with the bank specifically taking the position that an evidentiary hearing was
    required for resolution of that motion.
  34. As shown below, there was an absence of material evidence under Illinois
    Supreme Court Rule 231(a). Essentially, discovery was cut off right after the parties were at
    issue when Answers were filed, in the summer of 2022, to the operative Second Amended
  35. For these reasons as explained in detail below, Tonny requested the Court reconsolidate the cases for trial such that the Court in a single jury trial could resolve the issue of
    validity of both sets of documents in the interest of judicial economy and costs to various
    litigants, set a proof of will hearing before the jury trial and also provide a reasonable period of
    discovery, as this Court said it would be providing, for the Will Contest portion of the combined
    matter. In the alternative, for other reasons detailed, the Court should have continued the case
    of 21 MR 21 for some subsequent calendar to permit the matter of the motion of F&M Bank to
    be heard, after a reasonable period of discovery on the motion to remove itself, or at a
    minimum, to be heard at a reasonable time and date.
  36. After extensive briefing and argument, the Court made various rulings on
    September 7, 2022 that became incorporated into its September 9, 2022 Order. On April 18,
    2022, Attorney Nepple had filed on behalf of Defendants a document requesting that the July 2,
    2020 Will be admitted to probate. However, the petition also made vague reference to a will
    contest. There was no jury demand associated with the April 18, 2022 filing, but a general jury
    demand was made on June 24, 2022 for Defendants. This was well before Defendants answered
    the operative Second Amended Complaint later that Summer.
  37. When the Court considered whether to sever 21 MR 21 from 22 PR 12, the net
    effect of the Nepple filing came to the forefront. Plaintiffs maintained that the April 18, 2022
    filing was for the will contest and that the June 24, 2022 subsequent jury demand was
    ineffective. Defendants countered that the April 18, 2022 Nepple filing was not a will contest at
    all, such that they still had six months from the date the July 6, 2020 will was admitted to
    probate on March 8, 2022 to file a will contest. At the same time, the Court considered whether
    Defendants were entitled to a jury trial in 21 MR 21 and answered affirmatively.
  38. The Court’s September 9, 2022 Order, in paragraph 9, essentially agreed that the
    April 18, 2022 petition was insufficient to have the Court declare a will contest. Defendants
    then filed their petitions to contest the purported July 6, 2020 will within six months of March 8,
  39. The Court also correctly noted that as of the time it was making its September 7, 2022
    ruling, there was no petition on file to which a jury trial right existed in 2022 PR 12.
  40. The Court must keep in mind that when it entered its September 9, 2022 Order, it
    was basically confirming the status of matters as of September 7, 2022. What happened right
    after that was of major consequence. At the time of the Court ruling, later confirmed by written
    Order, there was no will contest on file whatsoever. In probate matters, there are extremely
    limited circumstances where a jury trial attaches. But a will contest is clearly one of them. So,
    the Court was absolutely correct that as of September 7, 2022, there was no will contest and
    therefore nothing of record in either 22 PR 12 or 21 MR 21, other than 21 MR 21 itself, to
    which a jury trial right attached. Nevertheless, as soon as Defendants filed their Will Contest
    Petitions, the very next day in fact, the claims were on file to which a jury trial right attached,
    namely a statutory right to contest a will.
  41. Tonny maintains that the sole reason for the severance became a moot point once
    the will contest was on file with a corresponding jury trial right. The Court, noting only one
    case, 21 MR 21, had a proper jury demand on file at the time, set the case for the February,
    2023 jury call. At that point, there being nothing else to which a jury right attached, the Court
    again correctly noted that 22 PR 12 matters would be heard by the Court in bench trial format
    for future evidentiary hearings. But as stated things quickly changed. On Tonny’s motion, the
    cases should have been reconsolidated. This was especially because the Court ultimately denied
    the Motion to Dismiss the will contest.
  42. Here, it was absolutely clear that Plaintiffs intended to include as part of their 21
    MR 21 case, against the July 2, 2020 documents, that Mr. Stegall executed a July 6, 2020 will.
    The Court admitted the document in evidence at trial without any limiting order. Plaintiffs
    tendered Jury Instruction #14, given erroneously on this issue by the Court’s Instruction No. 1,
    which clearly began by noting if not outright establishing that the Rifle Club and Catholic
    Diocese were beneficiaries of Mr. Stegall’s Last Will. Defendants’ correct version was proper.
  43. To say that the evidence from both cases would be bound up together and all
    matters should be tried at once, namely the 21 MR 21 claims about the July 2, 2020 documents
    and the affirmative defense and will contest that also address the July 6, 2020 documents, was
    an understatement. Furthermore, to the extent that the Court thought discovery should have
    occurred throughout 2021 before Mr. Stegall even died in early 2022, no formal will contest
    discovery could even have been undertaken until a probate matter was opened. Defendants had
    until September 8, 2022 just to file the will contest. Merely because Plaintiffs rushed this matter
    forward does not mean the Court should have.
  44. Defendants were entitled in the probate case to a formal proof of will hearing. If
    Plaintiffs were going to be relying, as they seemingly appeared to be, upon the purported July 6,
    2020 will, then Defendants should at least have had the right to a formal proof of will hearing to
    determine whether the purported July 6, 2020 document was even valid in that preliminary
    sense. The Court erred in denying such a hearing to Defendants. It was bound by the cited
    Illinois Supreme Court case. The distinction drawn by the Court between a second will and a
    codicil was erroneous as a matter of law.
  45. Once the Motion to Dismiss the will contest was denied, Defendants should have
    been deemed entitled to a statutory right to jury trial on both sets of documents together. There
    was no reason to have a trial that deals with both July 2, 2020 and July 6, 2020 timeframes,
    circumstances, and disputes as a precursor to a second trial on the July 6, 2020 documents.
    Plaintiffs seemed to want this Court to pre-judge the 21 MR 21 case as if they automatically win
    and preclude Defendants from having standing to contest the July 6, 2020 document. That
    approach was contrary to every aspect of fair and orderly jurisprudence. For all of these
    reasons, the case should have been continued for a combined jury trial after Defendants were
    given the reasonable period of discovery this Court had, on two prior occasions, indicated
    would be provided, before all the combined issues would be tried to a jury.
  46. On October 31, 2022, Penny Williamson filed a motion to remove the bank as
    executor. As noted in its December 29, 2022 Answer, the bank moved for an evidentiary
    hearing of this motion. The bank noted twelve separate grounds were alleged for its removal
    and denied each. Obviously, a substantial evidentiary hearing would be needed to resolve those
    claims. Tonny joined in the request that there be an evidentiary hearing on all of these removal
  47. Tonny urged that this Court could not conduct a jury trial when no one even
    knew who would be the proper parties to be trying the case. The bank erroneously suggested
    that the jury trial could go forward because if Defendants lose 21 MR 21 on the merits, they
    would no longer have any standing to object to F&M Bank being executor.
  48. There are two reasons why this argument lacked merit. First of all, Tonny and
    Penny both have motions pending requesting approval of their claims. These claims had
    nothing to do with whether the documents executed on July 2, 2020 or July 6, 2020 are valid.
    Defendants maintained a right to seek removal of F&M Bank in any event.
  49. More importantly, F&M Bank placed the cart before the horse. If the bank
    should have been removed as executor, a new executor would had to have been named to
    determine the course of its interest in 21 MR 21, as well for that matter in the 22 PR 12 will
    contest. This Court could not merely assume that a replacement executor would take the same
    position on the issues as the bank and its present chosen counsel had.
  50. The issue was not merely limited to an executor handling the administration of
    an estate in the abstract. Here, there were two actions essentially dealing with two separate sets
    of documents, and the F&M Bank also being involved as a plaintiff in 21 MR 21 and having the
    duty to defend the purported July 6, 2020 will in 22 PR 12. This issue relates directly to who is
    the proper party to be bringing or defending claims herein.
  51. Since this case was forced to jury trial before resolution of the motion to remove
    executor, the Court and parties are at grave risk that if a reviewing Court holds that F&M Bank
    should have been removed as executor, that all steps and results in 21 MR 21 after the date the
    bank should have been removed are invalid.
  52. If a Motion to Substitute Judge is denied, and a reviewing Court overturns that
    ruling later, all actions taken after the erroneous denial are void. Tonny believes the same rule
    would be applicable here.
  53. F&M Bank was not the proper party to be representing the estate in the
    scheduled jury trial. This defect in who is a proper party plaintiff was raised under 735 ILCS
    5/2-404. While the remedy would, of course, not be a dismissal (see 735 ILCS 5/2-407), F&M
    Bank would be removed and a new executor would, at a minimum, need to be substituted
    herein. The bottom line is that the Court has never felt open to the possibility of an egregious
    result that would occur if the Court proceeded to jury trial and either on its own, or through
    Appellate Court mandate, determined that F&M Bank should not have been representing the
    estate in 21 MR 21. The entire proceedings would have to be re-tried at vast and unwarranted
    expense to the litigants and contrary to judicial economy.
  54. In addition to the request to remove F&M Bank as executor, Penny’s motion also
    sought to disqualify Attorney Mangieri as counsel. This situation compounded the matter even
    further. The Court should, again, have determined not only who the proper parties are for the
    21 MR 21 jury trial, but who even should be counsel representing one of the parties.
  55. Supreme Court Rule 231(a) provides that a party may apply for a continuance
    because of the absence of material evidence. The issue is whether diligence has been used to
    obtain the evidence or want of time to obtain it and that if further time is given, the evidence can
    be produced. After the initial Complaint was filed, Defendants moved to dismiss. Plaintiffs
    sought leave to amend and amended their Complaint ultimately filing a Second Amended
    Complaint. It became the operative document in this case. Once that Second Amended
    Complaint was filed, as allowed by rules, Defendants availed themselves of an attempt to have
    it dismissed. Only after the Court ruled, did Tonny timely file her Answer to Second Amended
    Complaint on July 15, 2022. Penny also filed hers. Plaintiffs did not reply to Defendants’
    affirmative defenses until August 11, 2022. Thus, even though this case was filed in early 2021,
    the parties were never fully at issue on the operative pleadings until mid-August, 2022.
  56. As a practical matter, discovery does not usually begin in earnest until the initial
    pleadings (complaint, answer and reply to affirmative defenses) are finalized and all motions
    regarding pleadings are resolved. For example, if a pending motion to dismiss is granted, why
    would counsel and the parties want to incur the expense of beginning discovery in a case that
    might be dismissed? This should have definitely sounded quite familiar. Plaintiffs vociferously
    objected to conducting any discovery in connection with the will contest on file while their
    motion to dismiss it remained pending – through two cancelled hearings moreover. This Court
    agreed and ordered no discovery while the motion to dismiss was pending. Fair treatment of
    both sides compels the conclusion that the same rule should have applied to each case.
    Defendants should not be blamed for not conducting discovery earlier in 21 MR 21, while
    motion practice was ensuing on their various pleadings filed in early 2021 and amended
    February 9, 2022; March 17, 2022; and April 11, 2022.
  57. The Court on May 23, 2022 stated that all discovery depositions should be
    completed by July 11, 2022 and discovery would close on that date. The June 24, 2022 hearing
    date Order only extended discovery until August 1, 2022, with no further extensions being
    granted. The Court then did permit three depositions to be taken out of the dozens of witnesses
    disclosed by the parties in their Witness Disclosure lists circulated roughly during the same
    timeframe. Those were wrapped by the end of August, as directed by the Court, less than three
    weeks from when Defendants’ affirmative defenses were replied to by Plaintiffs.
  58. As noted in the preceding section, the Court on September 9, 2022 set the 21 MR
    21 case for jury trial. Once Defendants filed their will contest petitions, however, they sought to
    do discovery of many of the same principally-involved witnesses for both sets of documents.
    The executor then moved to dismiss the will contest petitions, and ultimately no discovery was
    allowed to be undertaken. Had the parties been allowed to do discovery in the will contest case
    over the preceding months, they would have been able to obtain the material evidence they
    sought and still have not received through the depositions. Had discovery been permitted in the
    will contest, Defendants could have learned of material information and possible grounds for
    impeachment of witnesses in the 21 MR 21 case.
  59. Again, it cannot be overlooked that we have been talking about a four-day (one
    business day) period between the two sets of documents. As is obvious beyond question, each
    side believed that their set of documents was appropriately generated and executed and that the
    other side’s was neither. Defendants could have had their discovery that relates at least to the
    will contest had such discovery been permitted. It was completely unfair to allow Plaintiffs to
    offer a purported July 6, 2020 will in a trial on the July 2, 2020 documents and have neither a
    proof of will hearing in probate case 22 PR 12 nor any discovery in the will contest.
  60. Notably, Plaintiffs did not propose in trying 21 MR 21 that they would have any
    burden of proof whatsoever regarding the purported July 6, 2020 document even though they
    are the plaintiffs in that case. Their proposed instruction turned into Court’s Instruction No. 1
    jumped right over that issue and informed the jury that Plaintiffs are beneficiaries of the July 6,
    2020 “last” will. Their instructions did not even leave open the question of Defendants being
    able to challenge that purported July 6, 2020 document at all. To repeat, Plaintiffs should not
    have been allowed to hamstring Defendants this way merely because they jumped the gun and
    filed 21 MR 21 a year or so before Stegall died.
  61. The bottom line concerning this whole situation is that Defendants have been
    denied their right to discovery to produce material evidence. The issues are all intertwined, as
    noted above. The Court set deadlines to close discovery within a very short timeframe of
    Defendants even filing their Answers to the operative Second Amended Complaint, which
    added one or more theories to the previous pleadings. Then, to compound matters, Defendants
    unsuccessfully tried to depose over a dozen individuals in the 22 PR 12 case, which could have
    permitted the development of material evidence for the 21 MR 21 case.
  62. It was also important to note the obvious, that Defendants were defending 21 MR
    21 but prosecuting the will contest. They would have every right to call experts (to obtain and
    review all pertinent medical records) in the will contest where they would bear the burden of
    proof, even if they can be deemed to not have any for 21 MR 21. But if Plaintiffs are really
    trying to combine the cases in a way beneficial only to them, with a jury hearing about a July 6,
    2020 document in a case involving July 2, 2020 documents, without full discovery and expert
    disclosure, this was fundamentally unfair.
  63. Co-Defendant, Tonny Williamson filed motions to continue and ultimately a
    motion to stay the beginning of the jury trial. Tonny adopted and incorporated by reference all
    of the motions and arguments made in those written filings. As noted in arguments on the first
    trial day, the denial of a continuance to Penny’s motions worked a substantial prejudice upon
    Tonny herself as well as her counsel.
  64. Counsel for Penny filed a Motion for Stay, Tonny joined in the motion from her
    own perspectives and those of her own counsel. For reasons stated in the motions and affidavits,
    there were reasons why Tonny and Penny themselves might not be able to prepare for and
    conduct themselves through testimony and aiding their attorneys for same reasons. Attorney
    Ryva upon being engaged in this case had a specific agreement with Tonny that Penny would be
    represented and there would be two attorneys on each side of any future trial in the case. The
    attorney who was representing Penny at the time withdrew. If Penny’s present counsel felt,
    correctly, that there are reasons (1) that Penny will not be able to assist herself through the trial
    and (2) may not be able to properly and fully assist counsel thereby creating ethical obligations
    for Penny’s attorney, these matters had significantly negative impact upon Tonny as well. Since
    Penny’s counsel could not represent Penny efficiently and zealously, this had a major and
    complete negative effect on Mr. Ryva’s ability to zealously and properly represent Tonny. As
    shown, there were numerous witnesses listed, and with both sides having two lawyers, the
    division of work could be easily handled. With one attorney, not so much. Tonny was
    therefore prejudiced because she was unable to effectively work with her co-defendant to
    defend this case, for reasons stated.
  65. Turning next to punitive damages, Illinois law approaches those issues, posttrial, from the standpoint of Illinois common law and constitutional precepts. The Court
    should never have instructed the jury at all or submitted the case to the jury. Since the fraud
    verdict must be overturned for other reasons stated, a punitive award must fail as well.
    Defendants reiterate their argument that they were substantially prejudiced in the punitive
    damage aspect of the trial by not being able to show some modicum of good faith and reject
    the proposition that they were glomming onto Rifle Club property to kick them out, as a
    defense to the punitive damage case. See below.
  66. Illinois common law authority tests jury verdicts of punitive damages by
    seeing if they resulted from passion and prejudice. Deal v. Byford, 127 Ill. 2d 192 (1989).
    Here, the Court should consider the absolutely ridiculous speed by which the jurors decided
    liability and then the punitive damage amounts later. There were numerous exhibits
    introduced into evidence and a number of witnesses testified. There is no way other than
    through passion and prejudice that this jury could have considered all the evidence and
    arguments in the limited time they had the case once they were reinstructed and sent back a
    second time on Friday, March 10, 2023.
  67. As an aside, and as additional argument, the Court allowed the jurors to not
    only deliberate in, but remain quartered during the trial, in a room that was obviously not
    soundproof. This was a Court error that cannot simply be passed off as “go talk to the
    building people.” This is not an abstract proposition. Such is required by Illinois Supreme
    Court Minimum Courtroom Standards 11.1. It was obvious, especially during the
    deliberations, that the jurors could be heard laughing and carrying about. The idea of
    soundproofing is not a one-way street. It is equally reasonable that the jurors could have
    heard what was going on in the courtroom during breaks in the testimony.
  68. On a number of occasions, the Court loudly chastised Tonny and her counsel.
    While the Court attempted to eradicate the prejudice associated with those claims both in
    front of the jury and through the non-soundproofed jury room, this did not cure the problem.
    Defendants raised this as soon as they heard how loud the jury was on Friday afternoon
    during deliberations and cannot be blamed for not raising the point earlier. However, there
    certainly was no indication that somehow the jury room had been soundproofed and all of a
    sudden lost its soundproofing on Friday, March 10, 2023. These issues are extremely
    important and can only be rectified by an entirely new, impartial trial.
  69. The punitive award amounts in and of themselves establish passion and
    prejudice warranting action post-trial by this Court. The binding precedent from the Fourth
    District is Hazelwood v. Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, 114 Ill.App.3d 703, 713 (1983):
    Although an award so small that it would be only an ordinary item of
    expense does not serve the purposes of retribution and deterrence, an
    award which bankrupts the Defendant is excessive. Punitive damages
    should be large enough to provide retribution and deterrence, but should
    not be so large that the award destroys the Defendant. Thus, before a
    Court can gauge the award, it must first gauge the financial position of
    the wrongdoer…Simply stated, the amount of the award should send a
    message loud enough to be heard, but not so loud as to deafen the
    listener. A deafening award is excessive.
  70. This precedent overwhelmingly shows that the punitive award must be
    vacated or substantially reduced. While the Hazelwood court affirmed a $170,000.00
    award in a railroad accident, that amount represented only .0237% of the railroad’s net
    worth, which was $716,180,000.00. Here, despite Plaintiffs’ attempts to claim a desire
    to be made whole, the amount awarded between the two Defendants is $600,000.00.
    In and of itself, this is about twice what the attorneys’ fees claim even was. The rest
    clearly is a wind fall.
  71. However, whether the fees paid were considered, the plain fact is that punitive
    damages cannot either bankrupt or destroy the Defendant. The punitive awards against
    Defendants far exceed the evidence offered to the jury regarding prospective net worths. The
    verdict against Tonny was at least four times what her net worth is. And, from Penny’s
    perspective, the point Tonny can make herself regarding the passion and prejudice for both
    awards, the $200,000.00 punitive award is likely 100 times what Penny’s net worth is.
  72. Similarly, due process concerns under the United States and Illinois
    Constitutions show that these awards must be completely vacated or substantially reduced.
    The jury simply could not have followed the instructions regarding consideration of
    Defendants’ net worth. Therefore, under due process considerations, Defendants were
    denied due process of law by the outrageous, unsupported verdict amounts when one
    considers their actual net worths. In Hazelwood, with the railroad worth $716,000,000.00, a
    punitive award of anything over its net worth would obviously have been overturned. Here,
    the verdicts are worse as being many multiples of Defendants’ individual net worths.
  73. Tonny respectfully maintains that the Court erred during jury selection voir dire
    and failure to reject certain jurors for cause. Tonny and Penny were forced to utilize all of their
    peremptory challenges, but there were still jurors that had connections to the Galesburg Rifle
    Club or were disclosed as avid hunters who should have been excluded from the jury: Brian
    Balser (friends with hunters and gun owners and connected to F&M Bank); Todd Howerter
    (Blake family friend/cousins and with him at gatherings and knew Mangieri and Deputy Dare);
    Kathy Woodward (connection with Tompkins State Bank and Linda Glisan and would give
    benefit of the doubt to such personnel); John Hallan (knows Chaney, Trisha and went to school
    and otherwise knew Mangieri; wife was former Recorder of Deeds and knew local lawyers);
    Shirley Watters (connection to Rifle Club; retired from OSF and loved St. Mary and good
    friends with Dawn Brown); Richard Booth (would give more weight to testimony of police
    office; retired from OSF); Melissa Wheeler (worked for Sheriff office; connection with J. Dare
    and Mangieri).
  74. During the course of trial, when Haynes was on the witness stand, Plaintiffs’
    counsel, knowing full well they were seeking to obtain a startling and prejudicial hearsay
    statement from that witness, went ahead and asked the question in front of the jury causing an
    objection to it. The response was that Haynes had heard from Defendants’ sister to the effect
    that he should stay away from Stegall because Defendants had dibs on him and he was theirs.
    Haynes couched the testimony in terms of Defendants’ ill intentions. The Court purported to
    attempt to negate the substantial prejudice from the remark by instructing the jury to disregard
    it. However, there are many Illinois cases on which Tonny’s relies for the proposition that
    curative instructions often simply cannot cure an undue pervasively prejudicial comment.
    When counsel clearly asks a question knowing that the answer will produce inadmissible but
    substantially prejudicial evidence, the entire trial can be infected causing reversible error.
    Authorities upon which Tonny relies for these propositions are Pleasance v. City of Chicago,
    396 Ill.App.3d 821, 830 (2009); and Konewko v. Advocate Health & Hospitals Corporation,
    2020 IL App (2d) 190684.
  75. The Court erred by substantially prejudicing Defendants in not allowing them to
    offer into evidence the fact that they had made a proposal to transfer the Galesburg Rifle Club
    the 35 acres. The Court erred first in indicating that there was no relevance because the offer
    was never accepted, but that was one of Defendants’ main points. It was unfair to allow the jury
    to hear just the Rifle Club claim, basically, that it is not going to get the 35 acres and
    presumably could be kicked off their property that had been used for many years. The jury was
    left with the impression that Defendants would actually kick the Rifle Club off the property if
    they prevailed, which simply was not and never has been true. They should have been allowed
    to disprove this notion. Defendants had even offered that a limiting instruction be given.
  76. Additionally, the offers themselves were relevant to matters that Illinois
    Evidence Rule 408 does not bar. The entire idea of offering settlement negotiations is to
    prejudice the other party by attempting to introduce their offer to show the jury that their
    position at trial to oppose the other side was inconsistent with having made a settlement offer
    initially. Here, the evidence of Defendants’ settlement offers was not ever being offered to
    show that Defendants had accepted it and some how were arguing a position inconsistent with a
    previous offer. Rule 408 permits otherwise barred settlement offers if related to witness bias or
    prejudice, assertion of undue delay or the issue of bad faith. See California & Hawaiian v.
    Kansas City Terminal, 602 F. Supp. 183 (W.D. Mo. 1985), aff’d 788 F.2d 1331. Here, the
    evidence offered did relate to at least one or more of these issues.
  77. The settlement offers were independently relevant in a number of ways. First, on
    the mutual mistake and fraud claims, one of which lead to the punitive damage finding and
    award, Defendants’ position was that there was no mistake or misstatement on Mr. Stegall’s
    part or related to him because any false statement or mistake that he could not ever get the Rifle
    Club the 35 acres was not true or material. Tonny testified that she never intended to sell the
    Rifle Club property or kick the Club out. But, she should have been entitled to actually explain
    that Defendants went further and actually offered the property to the Club. The jury was instead
    left with the impression that a for sale sign and eviction notice were on the way to the Club had
    the jury ruled for the defense.
  78. Moreover, the evidence certainly concerning the settlement offers should have
    been heard in the punitive damages portion of the trial. Even though the jury had ruled
    Defendants’ conduct was intentional and fraudulent, there were additional issues of
    reprehensibility of conduct, potential good faith, and absence of malice to discuss damages.
    Defendants should have been allowed to tell the jury that they had offered the property to the
    Rifle Club in an attempt to minimize the obvious passion and prejudice that the jury otherwise
    showed in rejecting Defendants’ intentions and version of events.
  79. The Court also erred in instructing the jury. No instructions should have been
    given at all on any issue on which directed verdict was proper. Specifically erroneous were the
    Court’s instructions denying Defendants’ right to have the jury instructed about the materiality
    of the alleged mistake and it needed to be a mistake of fact not law (see Defendants’
    Instructions 10 series), allowing the jury to be instructed on the mental capacity claim by
    overlapping it in a way that if mistake was established that a mental capacity claim would be
    equally proven (Plaintiffs’ Instruction No. 18), refusing Defendants’ Instruction on guardianship
    and that on punitive damages all individuals are entitled to present their claims and defenses in a
    court of law pursuant to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Defendants’
    Instruction No. 24). A jury must be instructed if any evidence is presented on a point, whether
    or not the jury would have been persuaded. Leonardi v. Loyola University, 168 Ill.2d 83 (1995).
  80. There clearly was evidence regarding both the materiality and “fact” issue under
    the mistake claimed. Defendants had cited case law defining materiality and including as “fact”
    an element of such claim. Mistakes of law are not actionable. Giving a better instruction on
    fraud did not cure this omission.
  81. On the mental capacity claim, the case law test regarding the three elements is all
    that should have been given. The Court essentially allowed Plaintiffs a second bite at the apple
    by allowing them to use their mistake claim to also establish one for lack of mental capacity.
    This error was especially egregious when combined with the fact that Attorney Mangieri, in
    closing argument, conceded the mental capacity claim had not been proved. Defense counsel
    spent virtually no time arguing against that claim because of the concession, and no response
    could be made in a defense sur-rebuttal closing argument, when Attorney Mangieri backtracked
    in rebuttal and then urged that the mental capacity claim had been proven.
  82. The Court erred in not giving Defendants’ Instruction No. 20. It would have told
    the jury to not consider the guardianship case issues from 2021 to determine the validity of the
    July 2, 2020 documents. The jury was left with the ability to do just that. The Court also erred
    in not telling the jury it could only consider the July 6, 2020 document for a limited purpose
    discussed herein elsewhere. (Defendants’ Instruction No. 19).
  83. The Court also erred in failing to instruct the jury that a Defendant has a right to
    defend claims in a non-frivolous way under the First Amendment. While the Court gave the
    instruction that Defendants were entitled to a right to trial by jury, it said nothing about the
    much more important and substantive right to argue against Plaintiffs’ case at all. The
    instruction was based directly on an Illinois Supreme Court case and should have been given.
    Plaintiffs argued at length that the main issue for punitive damages was that very point, that
    Defendants had forced them to litigate at great expense of attorney’s fees. The jury was left
    without the clear impression that Defendants had every right to try this case. The Court had
    never declared their defense frivolous, obviously allowing the case to go to the jury for its
    determination. If the Court really thought Defendants’ claims were frivolous, it would have
    granted its motion for judgment at the close of all the evidence. It did not do so.
  84. Especially egregious conduct by Plaintiffs’ counsel, accepted by the Court, was
    how the fraud case claims and instructions were addressed and handled. The Court should
    not have allowed what occurred to Defendants’ substantial prejudice as follows: The original
    Complaint and two amendments had limited Plaintiffs’ fraud claim to either Steve Holland or
    Defendants making a material misstatement of fact regarding whether Stegall could amend
    the trust to provide the 35 acres directly to the Rifle Club. Defendants felt they had an iron
    clad defense to the fraud claim as pleaded, which of course was the sole basis for the punitive
    award by the jury. They knew they had made no statements to Stegall at all regarding that
    issue. They also knew Holland would say that they made no such statements. There was no
    allegation that somehow whatever Holland told Stegall could be attributed to Defendants.
    Thus, Defendants determined that since Plaintiffs had numerous opportunities to amend,
    knew what their case was all along, urged vehemently that discovery should not be extended
    at a time when their Second Amended Complaint was limited to one type of alleged material
    misrepresentation concerning trust amenability, and demanded a jury trial even when there
    were strong assertions that Penny could not appear due to physical limitations, there would
    be no games played and amendments to expand theories where there had been no opportunity
    previously to do discovery and otherwise prepare a full defense.
  85. Plaintiffs having heard the defense Motion for Directed Verdict at the close of
    their case knew that their fraud claim as previously limited in their pleadings would flop. In
    arguing against the directed verdict motion on fraud, they did not remotely suggest that they had
    proven it. Instead, they sought to wholly expand their theory to include substantially different
    and other allegations claiming fraud. The Court erred in allowing the Second Amended
    Complaint to be amended to address such completely different and expanded theories.
  86. Defense counsel urged that even amendments to conform pleadings to proof
    must be tested by factors governing amendments, such as knowledge by the intended amender
    of its claim earlier, previous opportunities to amend, and prejudice and surprise to the opposing
    party. The Court said no as if there were simply no factors to be considered and effectively that
    a motion to conform pleadings to proof is automatically granted. This was erroneous.
  87. Here, the motion to amend itself stated that its basis was found in the
    documents which had already been admitted into evidence. There was no way Plaintiffs
    could not have known about this. They had an opportunity to plead any such theory
    previously. Instead, they were able to receive the benefit of Defendants not being able to do
    discovery on an expanded fraud theory. The Court misfocused on what Defendants knew.
  88. As noted in Friested v. CTA, 129 Ill. App. 2d 153 (1970), the key is whether
    the amendment would alter the nature and quality of the proof required to defend the action.
    This is basically undebatable. Plaintiffs had limited their fraud and thus punitive damage
    case to one time period and one alleged misrepresentation. It was after Defendants were
    denied discovery and presented their defense that this amendment arose. Defendants were
    entitled to defend a fraud and punitive damage case that was so limited in nature, believing
    that they, as stated, had an iron clad defense. Defendants do not even recall one attempt to
    show in the evidence, or argue in the closing arguments, that Defendants ever made any
    misstatement or any statement about amenability of the trust provisions. This was Holland’s
    deal. But Plaintiffs did not sue him and should not have been able to obtain a fraud verdict
    and punitive damages based upon what Holland may or may have not said.
  89. The Court then approved a Court instruction presented, edited, and approved
    by Plaintiffs’ counsel. But the Court instructed the jury based upon the single
    misrepresentation from the Second Amended Complaint. It was up to Plaintiff to make sure
    a proper instruction was being given. When defense counsel saw how the Court was going to
    instruct the jury, on a significantly limited fraud and thus punitive damage claim, argument
    was presented based upon what the jury was to decide. Then, after defense closing
    arguments, when there would be no opportunity for further argument, the Court allowed
    Plaintiffs to substitute a new instruction and drag the jury back to have it read to them. But
    Defendants were denied any opportunity for a second closing argument on the then-newly
    expanded fraud theory. This was erroneous and substantially prejudicial to Defendants.
  90. Tonny’s counsel asked Cassidy questions in his evidence deposition to develop
    grounds for disallowing Stegall’s discovery deposition from being read. This was because there
    was no Court Order as to a specific date of which Defendants were aware. When that went
    nowhere, the issue of Defendants’ non-participation in it became moot. There was no relevance
    to Cassidy’s Memo about Penny’s statements regarding whether Mr. Stegall’s deposition would
    go forward. They did not make the July 2, 2020 documents any more or less valid or invalid.
    All objections on substance are reserved for trial. Supreme Court Rule 211(c)(1). Merely
    because the questions were presented by Tonny’s counsel does not make them nonobjectionable, if irrelevant, at trial.
  91. Because of the formal requirements for a will, that it be in writing, signed by
    the testator and attested in the presence of two or more credible witnesses, mere declarations
    of a testator may not be admitted for the purposes of impeaching or contradicting his will.
    See Cheney v. Goldy, 225 Ill. 394 (1907) (evidence of one’s estate planning intentions are
    only relevant if consistent with the attached document but not so if they are contrary to its
    terms). No evidence of what Mr. Stegall told others about what he may have wanted to do
    after July 2, 2020 should have been admitted and the Court never addressed that issue.
  92. The purported July 6, 2020 (Plaintiff’s Exhibit No. 16) was never a subject to
    the statutory requirements for formal proof of will. Yet, that document should have been
    deemed inadmissible and not even mentioned before the jury at all. The July 6, 2020
    document was admitted. This prejudiced Defendants by placing no burden of proof for its
    authenticity or effect. The jury was shown a document that says it revoked the prior will.
    Essentially, the verdict was preordained by just admitting it.
  93. Plaintiffs seemed to think the only way they could prove July 2, 2020 was no
    good was by putting in a subsequent will never tested in a formal proof of will hearing. This
    could have been done by testimony that Stegall came in and wanted to make a change that soon.
    But Plaintiffs should not have been allowed to put in the document itself executed after the fact
    to attack a previous document. It was unfairly prejudicial to put such document in at all.
    Plaintiffs put in a will that had never been attacked in a proof of will hearing, argued a binding
    effect from it and yet denied a right to challenge the document in any way, saying that comes
  94. Defendants offered an instruction to have the Court at least tell the jury that
    they could only consider Exhibit No. 16 as going to Stegall’s intent on July 2, 2020.
    Defendants’ instruction was drawn directly from Plaintiffs’ response to the defense motion in
    limine. They there had agreed the document was admissible for a limited purpose at that
    time. The Court erroneously refused, letting the jury consider the document for all purposes.
  95. At a minimum, the jury should not have heard that the Court had blessed the
    July 6, 2020 document to any extent. But the Court’s instruction did this from a practical
    standpoint. Illinois law precludes admission into evidence of the order admitting a will to
    probate. In re Ketter’s Estate, 63 Ill.App.3d 796 (1978) (it has no force and effect). The
    concept is to not allow the jury to give weight in favor of a contested will on grounds the
    Court approved it in one sense earlier. Here, the Court effectively did the same thing in
    reverse, allowing the jury to hear about a will to be attacked in a separate case later.
  96. Stegall was not a competent witness. Any reasonable reading of the deposition
    text, where Stegall did not know where he was, who he was with, who was who, the property
    involved etc., even thinking he was being asked to re-enlist in the armed services, militates
    against a finding of competency. As gatekeeper on witness competency, the Court erred in
    permitting this “evidence.”
  97. The Court had reserved rulings on the attorney-client privilege issues to
    determine whether Penny was in an agency relationship with Stegall. Once at trial, the Court
    allowed the testimony without having the separate hearing earlier contemplated. Plaintiffs very
    argument was that there was such a relationship for the underlying case itself. This would and
    should have forbidden the Miller testimony under the agency exception to the third-person
    waiver rule.
  98. Counsel for the estate in closing conceded the mental capacity claim was not
    proven. After defense closings basically jumped past that count to concentrate on others,
    Mangieri retreated and said the claim was good. This was after Defendants had closed without
    detailed comment on mental capacity. The Court ruled there would be no sur-rebuttal closings.
    Plus, the jury passionately and prejudicially ruled for Plaintiffs on this claim. The combination
    of error must be rectified with a new trial.
  99. Defendants wanted to show through Holland that if an original will goes missing
    there is a presumption that it has been revoked. This related to whether once the purported July
    6, 2020 went missing it had been revoked and also showed how incredible Blake’s testimony
    was about not making a true, full copy, as it would not be usable to show what the revoked will
    even was. Holland also was asked about Stegall telling him Haynes had threatened him, and the
    Court rebuffed this important evidence. Massey was asked about decanting, which questioning
    was refused. These improper rulings substantially prejudiced Defendants.
  100. Each of the issues Tonny raises are themselves reversible on appeal and should
    provide a basis for a new trial. But even more importantly, it is the concept of the veritable
    combination of them or many of them that simply shows Defendants were denied a fair trial.
  101. As the Court is aware, each Defendant is entitled to file her own post-trial
    motion. Penny will have 30 days from the date of judgment. Tonny would like to reserve
    the ability to amend her post-trial motion to include any points Penny raises that are not
    contained in the present post-trial motion.
  102. For sake of completeness at this time, however, Tonny notes a number of
    matters where Defendants were irreparably prejudiced. One, the Court in front of the jury
    told its members, actually yelling, that Defendants and their counsel were being rude by
    having them wait for witnesses when one of them had taken ill at no fault to them or counsel.
    The Court also interrupted questioning of Tonny to lash out telling her to answer yes or no to
    questions that were either confusing or did not restrict answers to yes or no. The Court took
    sides on these two issues at least. The Court showed its prejudice and bias too when it said
    one more time and all of Tonny’s testimony would be stricken. This stressed Tonny out
    immensely putting her at grave risk that the Court was primed for disallowing her entire
    testimony. This was unfair and not cured by global assertions later that the Court had yelled
    at everybody and do not consider that to be evidence. Effectively, the Court had become an
    advocate for one side.
  103. For direct application of these rules in a similar situation, the Court is directed
    to Pavilion v. Kaferly, 204 Ill. App. 3d 235 (1990) (improper conduct by trial judge,
    objecting, interrupting, criticizing, and threatening to stop the questioning, warranted
    reversal and new trial because of the special recognized fact that jurors may give court
    comments deference or even controlling weight such that cautionary instructions “do not cure
    a comment of a sort most likely to remain firmly lodged in the memory of the jury and to
    excite prejudice which would preclude a fair and dispassionate consideration of the
  104. Defendants offered a number of pictures to show there was still an excellent
    relationship between Stegall and them in 2021. The Court with these and a lot of other
    evidence ruled such inadmissible as not related to the validity of the July 2, 2020 documents.
    Actually, they were relevant to shop that Stegall was friendly with them and content with the
    documents and on the question of affirmative defenses 1 and 3.
    WHEREFORE, Defendant, TONNY J. WILLIAMSON prays for judgment
    notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial based on the manifest weight of
    the evidence standard and for the numerous trial and pre-trial errors noted herein.
    TONNY J. WILLIAMSON, Defendant
    Jeffrey A. Ryva
    Jeffrey A. Ryva, ARDC# 3128318
    Email address for service of pleadings:
    Email address for correspondence:
    227 NE Jefferson Avenue
    Peoria, IL 61602
    T: (309) 674-1133
    F: (309) 674-6503
    The undersigned certifies that on March 21, 2023, all counsel of record were served with
    a copy of the foregoing document via hand delivery in court in accordance with Supreme Court
    Rule 11.
    Attorney Paul L. Mangieri
    Barash & Everett, LLC
    John W. Robertson
    Statham & Long, LLC
    Honorable Curtis Lane
    c/o Knox County Courthouse
    Theresa L. Sosalla
    Sosalla Law, LLC
    1800 3
    rd Avenue, Suite 404
    Rock Island, IL 61201
    4886-8277-9735, v. 1

From PW/TW: Using the new Knox County Rule you can wear caps in court and t-shirts emblazoned with lettering

So yesterday we learned from former attorney and judge Harry Bulkeley that the times have changed and now you can wear hats in court and tshirts emblazoned with lettering. (See blog post from yesterday)

Seems to be inappropriate to me and grounds for a mistrial because some jurors on some days wore camo hats and tshirt obviously to show support for the Galesburg Gun Club and some jurors on some days wore tshirts with OSF or Order of St Francis which is a division of the Catholic Church/Diocese of Peoria emblazoned on it.

Even in the Circuit Court of Cook County none of that would ever happen.

However, since the jurors did it and no one said anything in court, today Penny and Tonny Williamson went to appear on zoom, one in camo tshirt and a hat with a large cross on it and the other with clothing with crosses on it.

They got on zoom, no one said anything, but as soon as court started, the zoom video cut out! Interesting. the audio was fine, but not the video.

No one said anything or objected, so we’ll see what happens out of this.

Apparently Knox County does not have a published dress code in its rules and I wonder if what the jurors wore was grounds for a mistrial. Appeals have been filed in 22 PR 12 and 21 MR 21, so let’s wait and see what the 4th District Court of Appeals says.

From TW: Galesburg newspaper presents patent cover up of corruption in Knox County Court System

While this blog is investigating the strange and mysterious rulings of Judge Curtis Lane fueled by John Robertson and Paul Mangieri, out of no where comes a glowing article on the Williamson case wherein 150 acres of a home, farmland and timberland was taken from two elderly Christian ladies who were good lifelong friends of Frederick Stegall in Galesburg.

Apparently this is a weak and strange coverup of the nefarious activities in Knox County, IL court system.

So read on and let me know if anyone else has had their local newspapers publish strange and out of character articles in order to cover up crimes against the innocent in probate.

I’m sure it goes on.

Your turn: Our system of laws is still in good hands

Harry Bulkeley

Special to the Register-Mail

Did you ever go back to a place you used to work? It’s interesting how things are both the same and yet different. Recently I went back to the Knox County courthouse to observe a two week long jury trial. It evoked a lot of feelings.

I walked into one of the courtrooms where I had presided for 24 years. My picture is even hanging on the wall in one of the other rooms. But there was a different judge sitting where I used to sit. He and I had never worked together so it was interesting to watch someone else’s way of running a trial.

Some of the lawyers had familiar faces. One had appeared before me for years and another had been a judicial colleague until he retired and returned to the practice of law. The clerk had taken care of court files for me and the court reporter had written down a lot of things I have said.

The courtroom was always known as “The Big Courtroom” and had seen a lot of changes through its 140 years. New to me were the accessibility ramps and the television screens. It had also been fancied up since I sat there when I would sometimes find fallen plaster on my chair.

Among of the things I love about the law are its traditions. Everyone stood up when the jury came in. The clerk swore in the witnesses with the same oath used for centuries. (“Do you solemnly swear…”) The judge wore a robe like the one I had worn and like the ones judges have worn since back in England.

There were some differences. The jurors took notes and were allowed to submit to the judge questions they wanted him to ask the witnesses. A couple of jurors wore baseball caps through the proceedings. That was something I never allowed.

The case itself was an interesting one. A man had died and left his farmland to two sisters who claimed they had taken care of him. The Catholic Church and the local gun club sued, claiming that the man had promised to leave his property to them. He had, in fact, drawn up a will leaving everything to the church and the club but changed it shortly before he died.

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For two weeks witnesses testified about the decedent’s connection to the church and how his father had founded the gun club. Other witnesses recounted how he had been very close to the father of the two women who received the estate. With all the back and forth, it started to seem like a television drama.

In time-honored tradition each witness took the stand and told their idea of what happened. Then the lawyers on the other side started probing, looking for holes in their stories. All the while the jurors listened intently and took notes.

My experience was that in many cases less interesting than this one, jurors (and judges if you must know) sometime drift off during the dull parts of testimony. But for this trial, everyone listened carefully. There were even spectators who came to watch the trial every day. That is something you don’t see in a boring contract case.

Finally, the day came for closing arguments. Some of you may be aware that there are more than a couple of lawyer jokes circulating out there. Usually, they revolve around how crooked or inhuman attorneys are.

The arguments made to the jurors and their response to them made me proud of my profession. Both sides argued clearly and rationally. They didn’t shout or try to fool the jury.

They presented their clients’ case in a fair and reasonable way. It was a demonstration of what is good about our legal system and it made me proud to have been a part of it.

The jury was only out for about an hour before returning a verdict in favor of the church and the gun club. They not only gave them the land back but assessed a large penalty against the two women. It was how I would have voted but you can never predict what a jury will do.

The judge, the lawyers and the jurors all did their jobs well. Each one is an indispensable part of our legal system, and I was proud to see them perform so well.

As I sat in that courtroom and observed the same rituals that I had practiced, I thought about all those people both before and after me who have sworn to uphold our court system. Sometimes I could see swirling around the room the spirits of the scholars who had written my law books. Books that taught the logic and majesty of the law to past generations as well as the “youngsters” who came after me.

Americans have long taken pride in our judicial system, but we have also seen the frequent and often vicious attacks on lawyers and the law. Despite the criticism, when I went back to my old salt mine, I left assured that our system of laws is in good hands.

Harry Bulkeley is a retired Knox County judge and a local historian.

Here is the link to the cover up story:

Who ever this guy is, he clearly has not read the entire court file, nor did he ever contact the co-trustees, Penny and Tonny Williamson to confirm the truth of what he asked to be published. He also knows nothing about probate law, or Fred Stegall, or Haynes, Hessler and Blake who appear to have put their dasterdly plans in motion.

If he did, he would have read the following file stamped post trial motion by the Williamson attorneys, Jeff Ryva and Teri Sosalla who know a complete different side of the case:

F&M BANK, Executor of the Estate of FREDERICK J. STEGALL, Deceased,
GALESBURG RIFLE CLUB, an Illinois not-for-profit Corporation and
THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PEORIA, an Illinois Religious corporation,
Case No.: 2021 MR 21
NOW COMES, Defendant, PENNY J. WILLIAMSON (hereinafter “PENNY”), by and through her attorney THERESA L. SOSALLA of SOSALLA LAW, LLC, and for her Post-Trial Motion states as follows:

  1. In addition to the matters addressed in this Post-Trial Motion, PENNY adopts and joins Tonny’s Post-Trial Motion filed on her behalf by attorney Jeffrey A. Ryva on March 21, 2023.
  2. Denial of Defendants’ Discovery. One of the most egregious factors that denied Defendants a fair trial was the trial court’s refusal to allow Defendants to conduct meaningful discovery. The procedural history of this case – having been consolidated with both the guardianship case (21 PP 10) and the estate case (22 PR 10) – is convoluted at best. At any point in time prior to July 15, 2022 when Defendants filed their Answer to Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint, there had been some type of motion pending
    which would impact the nature and scope of the various claims between the parties in the consolidated cases of 21 MR 21 and 22 PR 10. It was not until Defendants filed their Answer to the Second Amended Complaint on July 15, 2022 – as opposed to filing another motion directed at the Second Amended Complaint – that the allegations of that complaint defined Plaintiffs’ cause of action against Defendants.1 However, the trial court had entered an Order following a June 24, 2022 hearing which closed discovery on August 1, 2022.2 The impossibility of completing discovery in two weeks is palpable. The trial court apparently believed that discovery in 21 MR 21 could, and should, have been conducted during the time when Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Complaint were pending. This belief, however, is contrary to a later ruling following a hearing in 22 PR 12 wherein the court stated:
    Additionally, the Court made it clear that an extension in discovery would be granted in Knox County Case No. 22-PR-12 due to the Court not expecting the parties to continue with discovery when new Motions to Dismiss had been filed and encouraged the parties and attorneys to attempt to agree on a new discovery cutoff deadline.3
    Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Compliant in 21 MR 21 was denied on June 24, 2022. It defies logic how the trial court could recognize that discovery would not proceed while motions to dismiss are pending in the Estate case but expected discovery to be conducted in 21 MR 21 during the 17 months the case was on file prior to a
    1 See Motion for Extension of Deadlines filed by Attorney Ryva on July 21, 2022 for the status of the discovery at that time.
    2 See Order referencing a June 24, 2022 hearing which was not filed until August 4, 2022.
    3 See Order entered November 1, 2022.
    ruling on Defendants’ motions to dismiss. The trial court arbitrarily treated discovery in the two cases differently. It abused its discretion in doing so. The lack of discovery available to Defendants crippled their ability to defend the claims against them and denied them a fair trial. The only remedy is to vacate the verdict and grant Defendants a new trial to be held after proper discovery is conducted by both parties.
  3. Penny’s First Motion to Continue Trial filed February 9, 2023. Attorney Theresa L. Sosalla entered her Appearance on behalf of Penny on January 18, 2023. It was anticipated that several motions relevant to clarifying trial issues would be resolved at that hearing. Unfortunately, due to technical problems in the courtroom, that hearing did not proceed as scheduled. The hearing was reset for February 17, 2023. Attorney Sosalla filed a Motion to Continue Jury Trial citing several legitimate reasons why it would be unfair and prejudicial to Penny if the jury trial remained on schedule to begin February 27, 2023. Consequently, Penny’s Motion to Continue was not resolved until 10 days prior to trial at the February 17 hearing; the trial court denied Penny’s motion without oral argument. “Discretion” is defined, in part, as “individual choice or judgment” or the “power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds.”4 The Court summarily denied this motion without addressing the merits of the grounds cited for a brief continuance of the scheduled trial. There is nothing in the record upon which the rationale for this ruling can be determined other than Plaintiffs’ and the Court’s intractable desire to begin the jury trial on February 27, 2023. Plaintiffs cited no prejudice or hardship that would befall them
    4 See Merriam-Webster online dictionary at:
    if the jury trial were to be briefly continued. While the decision regarding whether to continue a scheduled trial is within the trial court’s discretion, that discretion must be exercised to promote the interests of justice. The decision to deny Penny’s motion to continue was not the result of a conscientious consideration of the relative hardships or prejudices between the parties. The Court exercised no discretion, which is an abuse of discretion and error that compels granting Defendants a new trial.
  4. Subpoenas to Witnesses. The issue of Penny’s outstanding subpoenas issued to several trial witnesses in early January, 2023 was scheduled to be resolved at the January 18, 2023 hearing. Those subpoenas directed the recipients to appear for depositions on written questions and directed them to produce certain documents on a specified date. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Strike Subpoenas and Attachments and simultaneously contacted each of these witnesses to circumvent their compliance and prevent Defendants from obtaining necessary information regarding these witnesses’ anticipated testimony at trial. See letter attached hereto as Exhibit A.
  5. Penny’s Second Motion to Continue Trial filed February 15, 2023. The court also unfairly treated Penny from the standpoint of her medical condition. The court was presented with some evidence of Penny’s inability to come to court for the jury trial. The court denied a continuance but significantly compounded the problem during a large part of the jury trial. Eventually, the court began to go on the record to say Penny appeared through her attorney, Ms. Sosalla. But before that, on numerous occasions in the presence of the jury, the court noted that Penny “fails to appear.” There is no rule or other requirement that a litigant in a civil case appear at trial in the absence of an order
    compelling her to do so. Repeatedly stating that Penny “fails to appear” gave the impression that Penny did not care or at least allowed the jury to speculate why she was not present. The court probably used the failure to appear language a dozen or more times as the parties were reintroduced each time after a break of any kind. This could have been cured to some extent by saying something once and then noting all parties present with and through counsel as previously noted. Even when Penny’s counsel objected once, the court disagreed and said it would (and did) keep commenting that Penny had failed to appear. Penny’s physical impairment caused by a medically diagnoses condition prevented her from attending the trial. Her absence from jury selection prevented her from providing insight into which juror may have a propensity toward bias against her. In addition, her absence prevented her from rebutting certain unanticipated testimony from Plaintiffs’ witnesses which prejudicially impaired the jury’s ability to effectively perform the important “fact finding” function that is the foundation of the jury trial system. See Affidavit of Penny J. Williamson, attached hereto as Exhibit B.
  6. Subpoena to the Diocese — The jury ruled for Plaintiffs on liability very late on Friday March 10, 2023. Until then, there was no right to get the same jury to consider whether punitive damages should be awarded. This second part of the trial commenced at 9:00 a.m. Monday March 13, 2023. On the intervening Saturday, a subpoena was issued to the Diocese as follows:
    TO: Russ Courter, or any knowledgeable financial person from the Diocese conversant with the items and documents set forth below c/o John Robertson its counsel of record by email.
    YOU ARE COMMANDED to appear and testify as a witness and authenticate the documents described below on Monday March 13, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. before the
    Honorable Judge Curtis Lane at the Knox County Courthouse, 200 S. Cherry Street. Galesburg, IL 61401. And to bring all documents related in any way to the claim being made that day for punitive damages including but not limited to at least any expenditures made in connection with such claim, whether detailed invoices or indicia of payment thereof, and a statement of net worth of the Diocese as of January 1, 2021, January 1, 2022 and now and an account monthly of all revenues received and expenses paid from January 1, 2021 through the present date. A check for appearance and mileage will be tendered on arrival of the witness at court, due to timing issues.
  7. Any witness shall respond to any lawful subpoena of which he or she has actual knowledge, if payment of the fee and mileage has been tendered. Supreme Court Rule 237(a). Here, Defendants acted as quickly as possible to demand, as they were entitled to, evidence of the financial status of the Diocese. This Court properly instructed the jury to consider the financial vulnerability of all plaintiffs. The financial position of the Diocese was therefore relevant. The problem occurred when the Diocese produced neither Father Brokaw nor the subpoenaed Mr. Courter Monday nor any of the subpoenaed financial information. This left the jury with no direct evidence of the financial wherewithal of the Diocese. The Diocese clearly was aware of the subpoena through counsel and that they would receive a check for appearing Monday morning. No motion to quash was filed over the weekend or Monday morning. Notably, Plaintiffs had abandoned their request for punitive damages, only having brought it back into the case once this Court said Defendants were entitled to a jury trial. And discovery had closed before they had an opportunity to do so.
  8. But, the Court simply said that the subpoena could not be enforced because it had not been served three days before the time when compliance was demanded. The
    Court did not cite any rule to support this decision. It conflicted with governing Supreme Court Rule 237(a). There does not appear to be any local rule that could trump an inconsistent Supreme Court Rule on the subject. See Phelan v. Groeteke, 293 Ill. App. 3d 469 (1997) (local rule requiring compliance within two days invalid when Supreme Court Rule allowed three). The court should have enforced rather than effectively quashing the subpoena related to this important issue.
  9. Defendants’ Offers of Proof Regarding the Diocese Use of Funds — Another error involved the Court denying the offer of proof made by Defendants that sought testimony about the Diocese. One area of inquiry was whether the Diocese had contributed any part of the $346,000 received directly from the POD accounts when Stegall passed to contribute towards or defer expenses related to Stegall’s non-rifle club property. Another subject was whether the Diocese had donated from POD funds or had plans to donate from the alleged other 1.5 million dollars to the charities (NRA, VA or Red Cross) Stegall supposedly told Brittany Miller specifically he wanted to benefit from his estate. Plaintiffs harped constantly on the notion that Defendants would just glom onto the property, suggesting they would sell it, rather than as Tonny testified they would remain stewards of it by caring for the land and donating to several charities as Stegall had requested. Defendants were entitled to try to flip the script and argue that the church not only had not done anything regarding the property and did not share or plan to share Stegall’s largesse with anyone else. The jury never heard a word about what the church would do. This was erroneous and unduly prejudicial.
  10. The court’s ruling was that the idea of a monument or plaque put up to honor Stegall and what the Diocese did with the $346,000 for him personally was irrelevant. As stated, even this was erroneous. The offer of proof though was not limited in this fashion. Defendants were also talking about using POD funds on and towards Stegall’s farm acreage and whether it would honor his wishes about donating to other charities. These were the particular areas of relevance, yet the court never allowed the jury to consider them.
  11. Court’s Own Knowledge and Affiliation with Catholic Church — The Court also significantly erred when it brought its own knowledge outside the record into the proceeding. The transcript reveals that the court injected its own knowledge about such matters as follows: “[T]o me that would be counter to what the Roman Church does because we don’t have any idols outside of the Heavenly Father.” On its face, this statement strongly suggested an association between the court and church that had never been disclosed to Defendants that should have been. Defendants would have had a right to move for automatic substitution of judge after Judge Rasmussen left the case. Or perhaps there would have been grounds to request voluntary recusal or to petition to substitute for cause or even supplement one of the other such motions.
  12. There is case law on potentially biased judges which apply the same test as for a jury. In re Heirich, 10 Ill.2d 357 (1956), is one example. The Supreme Court noted that it did not in fact even hold or intimate that the particular commissioner was infected, consciously or unconsciously, with prejudice or affected by other motivation against the Respondent. The ruling was based upon the classic principle of jurisprudence, that no
    man who has a personal interest in the subject matter of decision in a case may sit in judgment on that case. The opinion goes on to note that the same rules would apply to any venireman in a jury trial. See also Bender v. Board of Fire & Police Commissioner of Dolton, 254 Ill.App.3d 488 (1993) (such personal interest requiring disqualification does not have to be a direct pecuniary interest in the outcome of the case; it need not be pecuniary at all; it need only be an interest which can be viewed as having a potentially debilitating effect on impartiality).
  13. The first canon of the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct says: “A JUDGE SHALL UPHOLD AND PROMOTE THE INDEPENDENCE, INTEGRITY, AND IMPARTIALITY OF THE JUDICIARY AND SHALL AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL OF THE JUDGE’S ACTIVITIES.” Comment [5] explains: “The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this Code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s … impartiality … as a judge.” Specific rules say this:
  14. RULE 2.11: DISQUALIFICATION (A) A judge shall be disqualified in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality* might reasonably be questioned, including, but not limited to, the following circumstances: (1) The judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer or personal knowledge* of facts that are in dispute in the proceeding. … (4), The judge while a judge or a judicial candidate,* has made a public statement, other than in a court proceeding, judicial decision, or opinion that commits or appears to commit the judge to reach a particular result or rule in a particular way in the proceeding or controversy. [Emphasis added.]
  15. COMMENTS [1] Under this Rule, a judge is disqualified whenever the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, regardless of whether any of the specific provisions of paragraphs (A)(l) through (6) apply. [2] A judge’s obligation not to hear or decide matters in which disqualification is required applies regardless of whether a motion to disqualify is filed. [5] A judge should disclose on the record information that the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might reasonably consider relevant to a possible motion for disqualification, even if the judge believes there is no basis for disqualification. [Emphasis added.]
  16. While certainly no litigant ever wishes to be in this predicament, these points must be preserved. The Court should have never kept this case from the beginning. Defendants had no idea at the outset that this Court had any affiliation with the Catholic Church. This should have been disclosed as Comment [5] to Rule 2.11 mandates. It should be beyond obvious from Defendants’ voire dire of jurors on their associations that they would have exercised their right to automatic substitution of judge as soon as Judge Rasmussen exited the case. His directive was to see if Judge Lane and all parties consented. Defendants would not have even had to use a substitution of judge motion since they would not have consented at such a time.
  17. There is also the issue which again needs to be raised no matter how distasteful it may be doing so. Attached hereto as Exhibit C is a newspaper article containing a statement made by the Judge Lane when he was running for office about his Catholic upbringing. This affiliation with the Catholic Church, whether ongoing or in the
    5 Article available at:
    past, should have been disclosed to the parties before Judge Lane took over the assignment of this case. Not doing so violated the rules governing candidates not making statements appearing to rule on way.
  18. At a minimum, even if there was no such affiliation, the court clearly brought its own knowledge of religion into the equation. A court cannot do so, plain and simple. It has long been the law that a judge cannot bring in matters outside the record through personal knowledge only. Streeter v. Streeter, 43 Ill. 155, 167 (1867). This itself was error.
  19. Judge Lane first heard any aspect of these proceedings on January 10, 2022. Apparently set at that time were a Motion to Certify for Appeal a certain question Judge Rasmussen had answered; a Petition for Rule Show Cause concerning confusion over date on which Defendants would be deposed; and a status regarding discovery and deposition deadlines and related processes. Judge Lane obviously knew from having read part of the file beforehand, and knowing the Catholic Diocese was a party, that he was entering a highly contested case between parties to include the Catholic Church. There was an initial discussion about whether Judge Rasmussen intended to keep the case; it appeared that he concluded that as long as counsel and Judge Lane agreed that Judge Lane would take the remainder of the case other than the Motion to Certify question. There was no disclosure about any association Judge Lane may have had with the Catholic Church. Defendants themselves were not present for the January 10, 2022 proceedings.
  20. Defendants did not actually know of the hearing and were entitled to be present for the discussions that took place on January 10, 2022, in various terms. These
    included whether to agree to have Judge Lane even take over the case, Judge Rasmussen having stated that Judge Lane and all parties agreed with Judge Lane to do so. Moreover, discussions ensued about whether any written discovery would be conducted and how many depositions were to be taken. Defendants’ then attorney remained mute when the Court asked if any written discovery was still to occur (the Court hearing nothing closed all written discovery immediately) and how many depositions would be taken, with those of Defendants, Dr. Hershkowitz, and Attorney Steve Holland even being discussed. Had Defendants known of these matters, they would have insisted on a broader form and extent of discovery and depositions. That would have also been the time to discuss expert witness disclosures and other matters. Nothing of this sort was ever mentioned.
  21. In connection overall with the denials of continuance and stay motions, Defendants believe it prudent to return to that hearing transcript. It is obvious from any reading of what occurred on that date was that Judge Lane had, at the very beginning, became completely consumed with getting the case tried, with little discovery, as soon as possible. A number of times the Court referenced that the case was simple and that pretty much any attorney of any kind could try it quickly and appropriately. This course of events began right from the start, with the trial court never wavering from its view to push the case to conclusion, no matter what, at the earliest date.
  22. That transcript also reflects an astonishing example of the Court jumping to conclusions. Without even being asked, Judge Lane required that the Court Order for the new deposition date for Defendants include language that not only must they physically appear at the date, time, and place set forth, but that if they did not appear that they
    would have no right whatsoever to provide testimony on their own behalf at trial. That unsolicited ruling set the stage for what occurred later in the jury trial. When called as an adverse witness by Plaintiffs, the Court threatened Tonny with having all of her testimony stricken if she would not answer questions in the way the Court thought they should be answered. As stated in other recent motions, this was improper. If this was just the wrap up of the die being cast from the beginning, the first day Judge Lane heard anything about the case prejudging what would happen if for any reason, legitimate or otherwise, Defendants failed to appear a second time for deposition. Illinois case law clearly stated that Orders barring or striking testimony are the last resort to be used. Here, the Court, before even hearing the pending Rule to Show Cause and Attorney’s Fee claim, which ultimately did and would include testimony justifying why the first deposition date was missed due to confusion.
  23. Motions for Substitution. Throughout the pre-trial proceedings, the Court repeatedly demonstrated its lack of impartiality toward Defendants’ interests in this litigation. Two separate Petitions to Substitute Judge for Cause were filed prior to trial.6 These Petitions set forth numerous instances of objectionable conduct directed toward Defendants which called into question the Court’s ability to make rulings based solely on the facts and law. Instead, this conduct created, in the least, an appearance of impropriety demonstrating its prejudice against Defendant. While this conduct was inappropriate at the time, the revelation of the Court’s affiliation with the Catholic Church in the midst of trial sheds new light on the motivation – whether conscious or unconscious
    6 See Petitions filed April 27, 2022 and October 31, 2022.
    – for the Court to enter rulings favorable to Plaintiffs and adverse to Defendants. Despite Defendants’ attempts to bring this disturbing conduct to the attention of the Court by filing the Petitions to Substitute, the animosity of the Court directed at the Defendants and their counsel continued unabated. The resulting appearance of bias and impropriety casts the judiciary in such a negative light that it is impossible to state that Defendants received a fair trial.
  24. Jury Room Not Soundproof. Tonny’s post-trial motion addressed the disturbing fact that the juror room was not soundproof. Not only could the jurors have heard what was going on in open court at the times when the Court removed them, there was another problem. The jurors used the same hallway and elevators/stairs as the parties, counsel, witnesses and general public did. There was a time that attorney Robertson was heard in front of a waiting witness or at least the general public casting negative aspersions on Defendants. In short, the jury was susceptible to exposure to information which was neither appropriate nor intended to be provided to them. It is impossible to cure the prejudicial impact these improprieties had on the jury’s verdict other than by granting Defendants a new trial.
  25. Attorney Fee Bills. The Court erred in admitting the attorney’s fees bills and submitting them to the jury. The exhibits clearly included work assertedly performed for the 22 LA and guardianship cases, a separate insurance coverage case and the probate matter itself. It was up to Plaintiffs to put in an accurate recitation of fees for this case. Even the jury instruction given on punitive damages limited the harm alleged to for just this case, 21 MR 21. Mercado v. Calumet Federal Savings & Loan Ass’n, 196 Ill. App. 3d 483
    (1990), reversed a fee award for failure to provide a clear and proper breakdown of recoverable fees. The Court went on to note that if fees are caused to be incurred and litigated over elsewhere, this is reason to reverse as well. Our jury compounded the error by obviously awarding punitive damages exceeding even the amount of fees that included those themselves unrecoverable as stemming from other litigation. Plaintiffs specifically contended they at least should be made whole and have attorney’s fees paid. This is not an abstract or de minimus point. As shown in Tonny’s affidavit, noting Defendants could not make the calculation at trial when large packets of fee bills with hundreds of entries were dumped on them, the fees for other matters amounted to over $110,000 Also, the Court should not have allowed all the billings for the Church and Rifle Club while Stegall was still alive. They did not have standing until he passed. The Court had previously erred in not dismissing those entities for lack of standing then. This error was exacerbated by then allowing billings for this improper period to be submitted to the jury.
  26. The Court erred in admitting the Plaintiffs’ attorneys fee bills and submitting them to the jury. The exhibits clearly included work assertedly performed for other cases pending between the parties, including the guardianship case and the probate matter. It was up to Plaintiffs to put in an accurate recitation of fees for this case. Even the jury instruction given on punitive damages limited the harm alleged to for just this case, 21 MR 21. Mercado v. Calumet Federal Savings & Loan Ass’n, 196 Ill. App. 3d 483 (1990) reversed a fee award for failure to provide a clear and proper breakdown of recoverable fees. The Court went on to note that if fees are caused to be incurred and litigated over elsewhere, this is reason to reverse as well. The jury compounded the error by obviously
    awarding punitive damages exceeding the amount of fees that included those themselves unrecoverable as stemming from other litigation. Plaintiffs specifically contended they at least should be made whole and have attorney’s fees paid. This is not an abstract or de minimus point. As shown in Tonny’s affidavit, attached hereto as Exhibit D, Defendants could not make the calculation at trial when large packets of fee bills with hundreds of entries were dumped on them on the morning of the trial on punitive damages. Also, the Court should not have allowed all the billings for the Church and Rifle Club while Stegall was still alive. They did not have standing until he passed. The Court had previously erred in not dismissing those entities for lack of standing then. This error was exacerbated by then allowing billings for an improper time period to be submitted to the jury. 27. Juror Misconduct — Two jurors (Epkins and Surface) submitted jury questionnaires stating they had not been convicted of a criminal offense. Attached as Exhibit B are documents showing otherwise. Defendants would have used challenges under the statute for cause (see 705 ILCS 305/2 (a) (3) requiring jurors be: “Free from all legal exception, of fair character, of approved integrity, of sound judgment, well informed, and able to understand the English language, whether in spoken or written form or interpreted into sign language.”) 28. Alternatively, if Defendants had accurate information regarding these jurors’ criminal history, then they would have used peremptories on them in the alternative. See Donough Power Equipment, Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548 (1984). It directly addresses lying about a criminal conviction. The Supreme Court held that a new trial would be
    required if the movant establishes that the juror actually lied, and that the juror would have been dismissed for cause if they answered truthfully.
  27. Juror Bias Due to Association with Diocese Healthcare Institutions. A juror’s knowledge of, or association with, a party is a quintessential example of grounds to remove that juror for cause. Defendants repeatedly raised the issue of various juror’s association with the Diocese of Peoria through his or her affiliation with healthcare facilities that fall within the Catholic Healthcare Ministry of the Diocese. See Exhibit E from the Diocese of Peoria website which acknowledges its affiliation with many OSF7 healthcare facilities. The prospective juror’s connection to the Diocese often involved their employment with institutions inseparable from the Diocese, i.e., OSF facilities or Catholic Charities. Defendants should have been allowed to remove such jurors for cause and not be required to use peremptory challenges in their efforts to select a fair and impartial jury.
  28. Substitution of Judge Motions — In addition to the arguments above made concerning the Court not advising Defendants at the outset that he had an affiliation with the Catholic Church, such that they would not have consented to Judge Lane when Judge Rasmussen indicated he would step aside if Judge Lane and all parties consented, or could have used a substitution of judge as a matter of right, the Court erroneously denied the motions for cause as well. For reasons stated in those motions, either or both substitution motions should have been granted. Especially egregious was the fact that the second one was filed by Penny pro se, and the Court struck it with prejudice, with no right
    7 Information available at:
    to amend, on technical or procedural grounds, not substance, without allowing Penny to even argue her motion at all. The Court said there was no proper verification but there was an electronic one. Even if it was not in proper form, the appropriate ruling should have been to give leave to cure it within 7 days or in open court right then.
  29. Additional Court Involvement – A separate case is pending before Judge Rasmussen with Defendants here Plaintiffs there against Messrs. Haynes, Hessler and Blake. It involves the purported will of Stegall of July 6, 2020. A hearing occurred in that matter before Judge Rasmussen on April 12, 2023. Defendants attended. Judge Lane appeared in the courtroom gallery for a significant part of the hearing, even though that case is not assigned to him. In addition, Defendants learned that attorney Robertson was also present although he does not represent a party to that case. And, moreover, Robertson advised Tonny’s counsel that he and Paul Mangieri who represents Haynes in that case met with Judge Lane who advised that he was directing them to get a hearing set in the 21 MR 21 case on any filed motions other than the actual post-trial motions of Defendants. The motions on file then all depended upon the enforceability of the judgment on the jury verdict which was already stayed by Tonny’s having filed a post-trial motion the day after the judgment.
  30. Sanctions Rulings Defendants were sanctioned erroneously. On one occasion, attorney Mangieri even stated that he only believed Attorney Vizciano should be sanctioned. But the Court ordered sanctions against Defendants, thereby again showing prejudice against them. Defendants incorporate by reference all arguments made by them in written submissions and on the record. Specifically, Tonny had difficulty hearing, as
    reflected by the Court numerous times during trial, and this led to her not deciphering the difference between the two banking institutions that generated the dispute.
  31. CUMULATIVE ERROR. While any one individual error alleged in Defendants’ Post-Trial Motions may not be sufficiently prejudicial to the Defendants, the cumulative effect of these errors denied Defendants’ right to a fair trial. Marriage of Sadovsky, 2019 IL App (3d) 180204 (favorable ruling on husband’s petition to terminate maintenance was reversed and remanded for new trial when trial court exceeded its discretion in excluding expert testimony as discovery sanction and refusing to consider statutory factors in ruling on petition to terminate maintenance). In Sadovsky, the appellate court acknowledged that reversal of a judgment based on evidentiary errors is rare, yet it is appropriate when the errors are substantially prejudicial so as to affect the outcome of the case. Id. at ¶ 24 (“Although a single error may not warrant reversal, several evidentiary errors may require a new trial.”). In the current litigation, the alleged errors far exceed those which lead to a new trial in Sadovsky. These errors fall into the following general categories:
    A. Improper limitations on discovery.
    B. Judicial bias and abuse of discretion.
    C. Juror bias.
    D. Prejudicial errors in admission of evidence favorable to Plaintiffs and the exclusion of evidence favorable to Defendants.
    E. Prejudicial rulings allowing the amendment of Plaintiffs’ pleadings against Defendants.
    F. Prejudicial rulings allowing Defendants to present evidence for assessment of punitive damages.
    G. Improper instructions to the jury as a consequence of such prejudicial rulings.
    In light of the cumulative effect of the numerous errors and abuses of discretion in the trial court’s rulings throughout this litigation, it cannot be said with any confidence that Defendants received a fair trial. The only remedy is to vacate the verdict and grant Defendants a new trial to be held after proper discovery is conducted by both parties.
  32. Wrap up.
    WHEREFORE, Defendants Tonny and Penny Williamson respectfully request that the Court GRANT them the relief herein requested, vacate the jury verdict and punitive damages awards and set this matter for retrial following
    Respectfully submitted,
    PENNY J. WILLIAMSON, Defendant
    Theresa L. Sosalla ARDC: 6220454
    1800 3rd Avenue, Suite 404
    Rock Island, IL 61201
    TEL: TEL:
    309 -794 794-3212 32123212
    309 -788 788-9332 93329332
    email: email:

The real question is now will attorney/former judge Bulkeley retract that article when presented with the facts before him.

We are still waiting on all the trial transcripts. But in case anyone has any doubt that Fred didn’t absolutely love these two elderly Christian women, here is the video evidence:

  1. Penny and Tonny can always stay with me.
  2. I want Penny and Tonny to take care of me
  3. I want my life prolonged for as long as possible
  4. I don’t want to sue Penny and Tonny
  5. I don’t have a lawyer (referring to Blake)
  6. Haynes takes me to places to do things I don’t understand
  7. Penny and Tonny to take care of my trust (property) forever and ever

From KKD: Wonderful Decision in Marjorie Ivy Case–Marjorie’s death was intentional says trial court probate judge McGuire under Illinois Slayer Statute

Here is the decision:

The decision was fair and well reasoned. The estate of Mordecai Faskowitz (the murderer) will NOT benefit from the horrendous stabbing death of Marjorie Ivy! (Not long before their deaths, Miriam Solo Greenfield prepared testamentary documents leaving Mordecai’s assets to her son. Miriam Solo was the sister of Mordecai.) Mordecai stabbed poor Marjorie 40 times, slit her throat and then “sliced her” to be sure she was dead.

Some important excerpts from this case:

On October 3,2013, during a well-being check, Chicago police officers discovered the
body of Marjorie G. Ivy (“Decedent” or “Marjorie”). It was later determined that her death was the result of homicide committed by her long-term partner, Mordechai Faskowitz (“Mordechai”).
The criminal court proceeding found that Mordechai was not guilty by reason of insanity
(“NGRI”) for causing Marjorie’s death.

On May 16, 2014, Judge Karen O’Malley (“Judge O’Malley”) named Marjorie’s nephew,
Christopher Ivy (“Petitioner” or “Ivy”), the Independent Administrator of her Estate. Marjorie
died intestate, leaving several nieces and nephews as her heirs at law. However, prior to her
death, she named Mordechai as a beneficiary on a number of assets.

In June 2018, Judge O’Malley granted Ivy’s motion for summary judgment. Judge
O’Malley ruled that Mordechai was ineligible to inherit under the Slayer Statute because, in
order for Mordechai to claim the NOR! defense in the criminal case, the State was required to prove each element of each offense charged beyond reasonable doubt. Judge O’Malley reasoned that since Mordechai was determined to be NOR! for first degree murder, there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding as to whether he intentionally and unjustifiably caused Marjorie’s death.

The appellate court disagreed. The appellate court found that, for purposes of the Slayer
Statute, the criminal court did not rule as to whether Mordechai “intentionally” caused
Marjorie’s death. See Ivy v. Faskowitz (In re Estate a/Ivy), 2019 IL App (1st) 181691 , ~85.
Specifically, the criminal court did not identify whether Mordechai intended to kill Marjorie,
cause great bodily harm, and/or if he knew that his acts would cause her death. Id. at ~47 . The matter was remanded to this Court for an evidentiary hearing. Id. at ~87. While on appeal, Mordechai died on May 15, 2019, and Judge O’Malley was re-assigned
to the Law Division since the case was remanded. Accordingly, this Court has decided several issues on remand.

First, this Court disqualified Miriam Solo Greenfield (“Solo”) from serving as the Estate of Faskowitz’s (“Respondent” or “Faskowitz’s Estate”) attorney and witness. Solo is Mordechai’s sister and the Executor of his last will and testament. Further she provided testimony at this trial and one of her children is the sole beneficiary of Faskowitz’s Estate, which stands to benefit from Ivy’s Estate.

Portions of the criminal trial transcript that contain stipulated statements from Dr.
Christiana Floreani ‘s (“Dr. Floreani”) were admitted as Petitioner’s Exhibit 7 (“Pet. Ex. 7”). Dr. Floreani is a psychiatrist who was ordered by the criminal court to evaluate Mordechai. Pet. Ex. 7, p. 150-51. Her evaluation consisted of interviewing Mordechai and Solo, and reviewing police reports, other psychiatric evaluations, medical records, and Mordechai ‘s own handwritten documents. Jd. at 151.

A Certified copy of Solo ‘s response to Independent Administrator of the Estate of Ivy ‘s
First Set of Requests to Admit was admitted as Petitioner’s Exhibit 2. Mordechai ‘s Last Will and Testament was admitted as Petitioner’s Exhibit 4. Mordechai executed his will on May 4, 2019 and died on May 15, 2019. (notice how close those dates are together and do not forget that Solo drafted these documents and further that Mordechai was in Elgin mental institution at the time that he signed these documents). He named Solo ‘s son, Avrohom Soloveichick, as his sole beneficiary. Finally, the Verified Motion to Spread Death of Record of Mordechai Faskowitz was admitted as Petitioner’s Exhibit 5.3

C. Examination of Miriam Solo Greenfield
Solo is Mordechai’ s sister and the independent executor of his last will and testament. Id.
167 -68. Her son, A vrohom Soloveichick, is the sole beneficiary of Mordechai’ swill. Id. at 260-

  1. Solo testified to her experiences with Mordechai’s ongoing mental health issues. She
    reported Mordechai’s symptoms started in his late 20s, but he had “his first break with reality”when he started acting erratically and ranting about various delusions at a bar mitzvah. Id. at 178-80. These breaks with reality included paranoid delusions about the Irish mafia, skinheads, demons, the CIA, and the FBI. Id. at 180. Mordechai stated that everyone should eat raw rats to prevent the evils of the world. Id. at 177. Shortly thereafter, Mordechai was hospitalized and it became clear that his mental health symptoms improved with medication. Id. at 179-80.

  2. Solo testified that sometime either before or after the hospitalization, she received a
    “science fiction letter” from Mordechai that contained his ongoing delusions about skinheads, the government, and Satan cultists. Id. at 180-81. Mordechai hand wrote the letter, copied it, and sent it out to about 70-80 people, including prominent religious figures . Id. at 181 .

  3. In 2003 Mordechai was involuntarily hospitalized after he crashed his car due to the
    belief that the CIA was chasing him. Id. at 222. Mordechai remained hospitalized until 2010,
    when he was able to get an apartment through Thresholds’ rehab facility. Id. at 223. Solo stated that around this time, Mordechai was back to his normal self. !d. at 224.
    In June 2013, Solo reported that Mordechai’s demeanor was calm and happy. Id. at 230-
  1. In August 2013, Solo received a second letter (“Respondents Exhibit 1”) from Mordechai
    that was almost identical the previous letter he sent out.4 Id. at 185. This letter did not mention 4 lnitially Mordechai ‘s Estate offers the 20 13 letter as exhibit as Respondent Exhibit 2 (Transcript, p. 183), but later clarifies that this letter is Respondent’s Exhibit I (Transcript, p. 246). Additionally, Respondent or the court reporter is confused on whether the second of Mordechai ‘s two letters was written in 2013 or 2003.
    the word demon or Marjorie ‘s name. Id. at 263. Solo was concerned by the letter and tried to contact Mordechai. Id. at 227. She was unable to contact Mordechai until late August when her friend found him wandering the streets. Id. at 227-28. Solo testified that Mordechai was agitated and pacing, “smelly, dirty, and had lost weight.” !d. at 230, 232. Solo reported that Mordechai refused to answer whether he was taking his medication. Id. at 232. She attempted to call Thresholds but was unable to get through so Mordechai stayed at her house for a few weeks. Id. at 234-37. While at her house, Mordechai ‘s condition did not improve, and he would call Solo hundreds of times a day because he believed people were “tapping the phones.” id. at 235-37.
    In early September of 2013, Mordechai left Solo’s home after one of her sons returned
    home to celebrate an upcoming Jewish holiday. Id. at 240. Solo testified that Mordechai believed that her son had to leave because he was an evil force. Id. at 239. Sometime after Mordechai left, Solo discovered that he was hospitalized, but she was unable to obtain information as to why. Id. at 242. Mordechai called Solo after he was discharged from the hospital, but told her that he escaped and then began ranting about his ongoing delusions including that Marjorie was overtaken by evil force. Id. at 243-44.
    Solo testified that she was contacted by the hospital Mordechai was staying at after he
    killed Marjorie. Id. at 245-46. She reports that Mordechai was refusing to eat, unless he was
    brought raw rats. Id. at 246. Solo testified that when she finally got to speak with Mordechai he seemed paranoid and confused. Id. at 247
    By the time of the criminal trial in 2016, Solo stated that Mordechai was taking his
    medication and had “calmed down.” Id. at 248. Solo reported that she had a conversation with Mordechai about killing Marjorie, 12
    “[h]e talked about that he was insane when he had done this, that he didn’t realize what
    he was doing, that he loved [Marjorie], that he never would have hurt her, that his
    delusions were caused because he couldn’t get his meds.” Id. at 251.

On Solo’s behalf, she made the (very weak argument as follows):

  • Solo testified to Mordechai ‘s history with mental illness and the delusions he had
    close to the time of Marjorie’s death. She testified Mordechai stated that Marjorie was
    taken over by evil force. Solo’s testimony is consistent with the accounts given by Dr.
    Floreani, Dr. Seltzberg, and Theoharopoulos. [Faskowitz’s Estate makes an argument
    regarding an affidavit by Solo as well as her responses to interrogatories. While the
    estate contends that these documents are in the record, neither of these documents,
    were entered into evidence during bench trial.]

Section 2-6 of the Illinois Probate Act (“Slayer Statute”) states, in pertinent part, as follows:
A person who intentionally and unjustifiably causes the death of another shall not
receive any property, benefit, or other interest by reason of the death, whether as
heir, legatee, beneficiary, joint tenant, survivor, appointee or in any other capacity
and whether the property, benefit, or other interest passes pursuant to any form of
title registration, testamentary or nontestamentary instrument, intestacy,
renunciation, or any other circumstance. The property, benefit, or other interest
shall pass as if the person causing the death died before the decedent, provided that
with respect to joint tenancy property the interest possessed prior to the death by
the person causing the death shall not be diminished by the application of this

Further, evidence of Mordechai’s awareness that he killed a person can be found in
Harrington’s testimony. Harrington testified that Mordechai asked him “to come pick up a killed body.” Transcript, at 49 & 52-53. When Harrington responded that the police needed to be called, Mordechai stated he did not want the police involved and hung up. !d. at 50-51.

In conclusion, the court stated:

For the reasons stated above, the Court finds that Mordechai Faskowitz intentionally and
unjustifiably killed Marjorie Ivy. Accordingly, Mordechai and his estate are barred under the
Slayer Statute from receiving any benefit or distribution from the Estate of Marjorie Ivy.

Judge McGuire made the correct decision. In no way should Mordecai’s sister and her child benefit from the horrendous slaying death of poor Marjorie Ivy.

And the amount distributed to the relatives of Marjorie Ivy in no manner can ever compensate for such a horrid, horrid death.

And finally, I find it to be way to much of a coincidence that 1) Mordecai isn’t taking his meds and his sister Solo knows but does not make sure he stays safe in a facility; 2) Mordecai’s sister Solo prepares testamentary documents for Marjorie leaving everything to Mordecai, who in turn leaves his estate to Solo’s disabled son; 3) the documents are prepared and Marjorie is murdered; 4) Mordecai is placed in Elgin psych hospital where he signs documents to leave his estate to Solo’s disabled son; 5) Mordecai soon dies.

Anyone notice a pattern here?

Remember Solo was involved in a questionable estate in Florida which was investigated by the Florida ATG where Mordecai was the forgotten child who was not left a dime. (Elsewhere on this blog)

Now we have the Majorie Ivy questionable estate where two people died.

Solo is currently involved in the Estate of Ralla Klepak, another interesting case.

And I’m just noticing the facts. Nothing more. You my dear reader can draw your own conclusions.

From TW: what is going on? Knox County IL search for a case not functioning 2 days?

As many of you are well aware, having no access to court documents, even the docket sheet is a serious and flagrant method of corruption. Changing the docket sheet and verbiage allows corruption to flourish.

This is especially crucial when 95% of all Illinois counties do not have their court documents on line. Insist that this change. It is not at all difficult to put all documents, not just the docket sheet online.

Here is the link to the 9th judicial court circuit in Illinois and no one has been able to link to it since 2 days.

Please email me or call me if you can get through

From KKD: Letter warning Sheriff Dart of Wrongful Eviction of Dean Sallas, age 86 and in frail health



5534 N. Milwaukee Ave JoAnne Denison, Executive Director
Chicago, IL 60630 Cell Phone 773-255-7608
ph 312-553-1300
fax 773-423-4455
A social Justice Services NFP

Sheriff Dart
Cook County Sheriff’s Offices
Cook County, IL
via email

RE: Wrongful Eviction of Dean Sallas 4110 Suffield Court, Skokie, IL
Illinois Appellate Case No. 1-22-1111

Dear Sheriff Dart;

I am currently receiving many complaints from ordinary citizens and taxpayers that your offices recently wrongfully evicted Mr. Dean Sallas, age 86, from his home in Skokie Illinois, where he has lived for decades.

This is apparently part of a loosely organized criminal scheme operating out of Probate Court with Judge Boliker as one of the principals, and Elizabeth Cassanova, and attorney from the Office of Public Guardian–an agency well known to take advantage of Illinois senior citizens, force them into nursing homes against their will and then to loot their estates (e.g. case of Lucille Valentino). The history of this agency is extremely poor, and the Probate Court is not much better.

The Record on Appeal together with the brief clearly shows a pattern of ignoring the rights of Dean Sallas and his wife Amelia Sallas and that the eviction which your employees performed under your direction and control, resulted in the false eviction of this man in the dead of winter during freezing temperatures.

The record on appeal and brief can be found at the following link:

The harrowing story in detail of what happened to Amelia and Dean Sallas in Probate and Foreclosure is repeated in several posts on the above cited blogs.

I am herewith demanding that you:
1) provide immediate suitable housing to Mr. Sallas
2) fix up the home of Mr. Sallas at 4110 Suffield Court and return him there as soon as it is suitable clean and ready for his and his wife’s occupancy.

Very Truly Yours,

Joanne Denison,
Executive Director,
Justice 4 Every1, NFP
cc: Chicago FBI, blog and blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

From KKD: Proof of wrongful eviction by Sheriff Dart of 86 year old Dean Sallas who is in very poor health and who has been rendered homeless

Here is the link to all the pleadings: 1) Brief on appeal. 2) Record on Appeal

Yesterday the appellate brief was finally filed by Dean Sallas, 86 years old and in extremely poor health. He has been involuntarily separated from his wife of more than 50 years by the Cook County Guardian’s Offices.

Judge Boliker of the 18th floor Daley Center is involved. Elizabeth Cassanova is involved. Sheriff Dart forcibly and wrongfully evicted Dean Sallas from the home he lived in in Skokie for decades. From Guardianship to Foreclosure and Chancery, Dean didn’t stand a chance with the all pervasive corruption.

I am herewith demanding that Boliker, Cassanova and Dart immediately provide housing for Dean and fix up him home and return him there. There is no excuse for all of this disgusting, horrid and very, very corrupt behavior.

The ARDC does nothing in Cook County, the JIB does nothing. But right now we have living proof of their corruption, an 86 year old husband and father whose life has been utterly destroyed by a Probate judge, the Office of Public Guardian and the Chancery Division, and then there is Sheriff Dart, always ready to send out his minions, goons and thugs to forcibly evict an 86 year old man in frail health who can barely walk.

This is one of the most digusting cases I have ever seen.

And this IS EXACTLY WHY I AM NOT LICENSED TODAY. I am honest about these cases, I run an honest blog and the ARDC hates it. They let corrupt and criminal attorneys run amok at all turns.

I have been told that I CANNOT BE A LICENSED ATTORNEY AND RUN A BLOG that truthfully reports on corrupt cases where attorneys freely dip into the honey pot and steal from Illinois consumers. Ken Ditkowsky also reports on the pervasive corruption, writes reports and letters to the Illinois authorities and the ARDC and JIB and for that reason, HE CANNOT BE A LICENSED ATTORNEY. Attorney Lane Amu reported on corruption where reported a corrupt sitting Illinois Judge and HE CANNOT BE A LICENSED attorney because he reports corruption and complains about it vociferously. He has tried to get his license back, but he cannot get it back.

Attorney Nejla Lane told a judge’s law clerk that her judge in Federal District Court that she is emotionally distraught that the judge does not want to follow Illinois Appellate law and her client is suffering because of it, and she received a 6 month suspension from both the Federal Court System and the State court system.

Anthony Phillips paid attorney Joanne Bruzgul some $20,000 and then got paid in full by probate and refused to provide an accounting and refused to return the overpayment. The ARDC dismissed his complaint. Anthony Phillips complained and his complaint was dismissed.

Recently, attorney Sharon Corse took some $17,000 out of her IOLTA trust account, without a court order, but a court order was required, and she too was told to return that money and she refused.

Today, Judge Michael Forti told Esther Zepeda that she could not reopen a fake $5,800 judgment from the law firm of attorney Tiffany Hughes who handwrote on a client retainer account that she could charge $200 per week until the bill was paid off. The client found more witnesses that TH offices does this frequently and the client found new case law that Illinois Courts cannot be a party to such fraud, and a 1401 proceeding could be used to open a fake judgement even years later. Judge Forti ignored all this and told poor Esther to “be sure to file your Notice of Appeal timely”. What a jerk!

By the way, here is the case, if you have to open up one of the many, many fake judgments issued by these corrupt judges and courts:

Clark v. Lay, 2022 IL App (4th) 220101 (Ill. App. 2022)

Recently, in the Williamson case in Knox County, the (lying) jurors came back with a verdict against Tonny and Penny Williamson to clear the way for a fake judgment that the Catholic Peoria Diocese and Galesburg Rifle Club could take some 150 acres of farmland and timberland away from them, again, in a corrupt probate proceeding. Numerous jurors lied on their juror forms that they had not been arrested, when in fact they had been arrested. One worked for OSF Hospital in Galesburg, an entity that was part of the corruption because OSF allegedly was sending out visiting nurses to care for elderly Fred Stegall, but during that time he was actually found filthy, had not bathed, there was no decedent food in the home, the bread was moldy, the milk sour, meat weeks old, flies everywhere–in January, old trash everywhere. So why did Judge Lane turn down a request to exclude her for cause?

The jury deliberated 5 min and turned over all that farmland to the plaintiffs. No discussion needed apparently.

Next the jury awarded $600k in punitive damages despite the fact that all Tonny and Penny Williamson did was take care of Fred Stegall the last year of his life. They actually spent over $60k on him when the probate court never gave him a dime of his own money for living expenses. The accounting on that case is a funky as weeks old hamburger filled with flies found in his refrigerator and the rotting bags of trash in his kitchen filled with flies.

As the investigation continues there is a lot more to come on that case.

But if you want the courts in Illinois cleared up, start with the ARDC and demand they remove everyone invoved in my case and the cases of Nejla Lane, Ken Ditkowsky and Lare Amu. The list of honest attorneys in Illinois is assuredly dwindling.