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By Bill Hoagland
On May 18, Timothy Baggott, a Carbondale, Illinois resident, had to catch a flight at the Marion, Illinois airport for a trip to the West Coast. He apparently had tried unsuccessfully to get a Uber ride to the Marion airport so he eventually “car-jacked” a backhoe parked at a construction site along Route 13 and drove it 10 miles to the airport. Surveillance video at the airport shows him parking the backhoe in the airport parking lot and calmly walking, with a guitar case, into the airport. He was later arrested in Elko, Nevada on theft charges.
So if you were a public defender ethically obligated to defend Mr. Baggott, what would be the most effective way to defend him?
If you knew that the trial judge assigned to the case had a sense of humor, there would be plenty of one-liners to throw out there: “I always wanted to say that a ‘ho’ gave me a ride to the airport;” “I guess I dug myself into a hole, didn’t I?”; “I had a bumpy ride even before I got on the plane;” and so on. And it is true that compared to other carjackings, no one was injured, the owner promptly got his “ho” back and to his credit, Baggott resisted any temptation to do some trenching on the way to the airport. Judging from the comments sections of the various news stories on this, the public reaction seems surprisingly supportive of Baggott. So at the least, maybe he would be best off with a jury trial with jurors who might be impressed with Baggott’s creative thinking. In fact, I know some criminal lawyers who would jump at the chance to defend this guy as to the charges in Illinois.
But here is why being a public defender is not always that easy. It turns out that once Mr. Baggott arrived at his destination in Nevada, he allegedly stole a vehicle at the airport to get to his “gig” and a second vehicle later. Yes, that does complicate things. And you thought being a public defender would be easy. So how would you defend this guy if, as a public defender, you are ethically obligated to do so?
Note: The facts recited here are merely allegations at this point. Every defendant is entitled to a presumption of innocence.
• Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.