No new trial for Ryan Bell, says Judge Conway

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

Judge James G. Conway, Jr. ruled against Ryan Spencer Ross Bell’s post conviction petition, with the judge’s opinion and order filed in Mercer County Court on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009. Bell was sentenced to 20 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections in 2006 after pleading guilty to a Class 1 felony of criminal sexual assault, can’t consent.

Bell’s guilty plea was part of a negotiated plea agreement made in Mercer County Court in October 2006, with the state dismissing six other sexual assault charges for the guilty plea. Because Bell was tried as an adult and had other convictions, specifically a burglary conviction, his sentence was extendible to up to 30 years for each count, if the case had gone to trial and he.

Bell’s new attorneys, Steve Hanna of Rock Island and John McAdams of Yorkville, argued that certain information including video and audio tapes questioning the victim and others involved in the rape, were not given to the defense, which could have been used by the defense to argue for a lesser penalty.

The post conviction hearing was held Monday, Aug. 31, and lasted around five hours.

In Judge Conway’s opinion, “the court found that the States Attorney’s office did not willfully suppress material exculpatory evidence;” …”did not inadvertently suppress material evidence;” that the defendant “is not entitled to a new trial” and the defendant “is not entitled to a new sentencing hearing.”

Judge Conway stated that both parties agreed during the evidentiary hearing that the “standard of materiality” was whether there is reasonable probability that disclosure would have altered the outcome of the proceeding.

The judge noted that Bell’s attorney for the original trial, Donavan Robinson, “did not necessarily need to view the tapes” and he knew of their existence but “practically and tactically chose not to press for it, or call attention to it in a zealous effort to lessen his client’s losses from a possible lifetime in prison to less than 30 years, by prompt, realistic negotiations with the prosecution. …”

The judge noted that the defense had already attacked Robinson’s performance as ineffective assistance on direct appeal and the appellate court found that claim lacking merit.