Zahm pleads loss of vision, has case continued

Cala Smoldt/Correspondent

A pre-trial conference has been continued again for Osco man, Jon Zahm. State's Attorney Greg McHugh filed a contempt of court complaint against Mr. Zahm in January. His pre-trial conference is continued to March 31 at 11 a.m. in Mercer County Court.

During an already continued pre-trial conference Thursday, Mr. Zahm told Judge Richard Zimmer he had not filed a motion to dismiss in time. He explained that due to a sudden loss of vision, he was, "unable to do research and type up the motion to dismiss." He said his condition is so severe he would be seeing a retina specialist.

Judge Richard Zimmer told Mr. Zahm he is to have any motions he wishes to be heard filed no later than March 24 for the continued March 31 pre-trial conference. It's set for 11 a.m. in Mercer County Court.

The complaint stems from a January hearing made before the Mercer County Electoral Board when Mr. Zahm argued that petitions filed by Sherrard School Board candidates Patrick Lynch and incumbent Linda Koepke violated election code. He appeared with petitioner and friend Brandi McGuire, of Coyne Center, who filed the objections.

Jan. 14, the Electoral Board ruled that Mr. Lynch's petition wasn't filed properly because the pages weren't numbered. The board ruled Ms. Koepke's was filed correctly. Those serving on the board were State's Attorney Greg McHugh, Mercer County Circuit Clerk Jeff Benson, and Mercer County Treasurer Bev Lower.

During the pre-trial conference Mr. Zahm said he has a CD recording of the hearing proving SA McHugh asked if he was attorney, Zahm said, "I indicated I was not, after all that back and forth, he allowed me to continue to assist Ms. McGure." He informed the court that he was looking into hiring private counsel to represent him. He later said, "At the beginning (of the aforementioned hearing) I indicated I was not an attorney, without pay, helping as a friend," said Zahm, "due to raising it to 'criminal' complaint, it makes it more necessary to secure professional help."

Later State's Attorney McHugh said he was informed by Mr. Zahm mid-way through the hearing that he was not a lawyer. He said, "I'm not required to be his attorney... I shouldn't have to advise him to follow the law."

Judge Zimmer found that the complaint against him is a 'criminal' contempt of court, rather than 'civil. He advised both SA McHugh and Mr. Zahm that because of this difference the state can now ask for up to 6 mo. jail as penalty if found guilty. Possible fines up to $5,000, court costs, and be enjoined from representing other parties before the Mercer County Board.