Sucher wants to drop public defender, hire his own attorney

Trial in case of DCFS worker's death will be pushed back

MOUNT CARROLL – The Rock Falls man accused of causing the death of a 59-year-old on-duty DCFS worker plans to drop his public defender and hire his own attorney.

A hearing was to begin at 2 p.m. Friday regarding a change-of-venue motion Carroll County Public Defender Colleen Buckwalter filed Tuesday on behalf of Andrew “A.J.” Sucher.

Instead, a hearing was held at 9 a.m. at which Sucher made an oral motion seeking to retain his own counsel and asking Judge John “Jerry” Kane to reschedule his May 21 jury trial.

Over the objections of State’s Attorney Scott Brinkmeier, Kane agreed to strike the trial date, and set a status hearing for June 22.

Buckwalter will remain Sucher’s attorney until a new one is hired.

Neither she nor Brinkmeier could be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

In her motion, Buckwalter cited “overwhelming and highly prejudicial publicity in print and electronic media” that will make Sucher “unable to receive a fair trial in Carroll County and, for that matter, the counties surrounding Carroll County.”

The story of Knight’s beating and subsequent death, and of proposed legislation it has sparked seeking to stiffen the penalties for attacking DCFS workers, has been covered by multiple media outlets locally and statewide.

“The potential jury pool of Carroll County has been exposed to a barrage of highly prejudicial material that includes inflammatory, inaccurate and inadmissible material,” Buckwalter wrote. “There is no doubt this barrage will continue until trial date.”

Brinkmeier has not yet filed a written response to the motion, nor will he need to unless and until the next attorney seeks a new trial locale.

Sucher, 25, faces at least 20 to 60 years in prison in the death of Pamela Knight, 59, of Dixon. She died Feb. 8 in a Chicago hospital of injuries investigators say Sucher inflicted on Sept. 29 when he kicked her in the head, fracturing her skull and causing severe brain damage.

The veteran Department of Children and Family Services worker, who was based in the state agency’s Sterling office, went to Sucher’s parents’ home in Milledgeville that afternoon looking for a 2-year-old who was to be taken into protective custody. She was attacked getting out of her car, investigators have said.

Sucher is being held on $1 million bond, charged with five counts of first-degree murder, as well as aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and aggravated battery of a state employee, each of which carries 2 to 5 years in prison.

He also is charged with aggravated battery of a peace officer, which carries 3 to 7 years.

Officials say he was being moved to another cell in the Carroll County Jail on Dec. 19 when he became “verbally combative” and punched Chief Deputy Craig Dimmick in the face.

He subsequently was transferred to Stephenson County, where he remains. Bond in that case is $75,000. ​

Sucher also has pleaded not guilty in Whiteside County Court to aggravated battery of a child, which carries 2 to 5 years, and battery, domestic battery, and interfering with the reporting of a domestic battery, all misdemeanors.

He is accused of dragging a 6-year-old by the foot and striking him in the face with a squirt gun, and of throwing a woman against a wall and taking her phone in a July 29 incident.

He was out on bond in that case when Knight was attacked.

It’s on hold while the Carroll County cases proceed.

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