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County’s Sheley trial bill: $85,000

But Whiteside had budgeted $200,000

MORRISON – The highly anticipated trial of Nicholas T. Sheley in Whiteside County might have cost a pretty penny, but county officials say it didn’t break the bank.

When all was said and done, the county paid $85,193.70 to cover attorney fees, prosecution, jury, and witness costs, and transcripts.

Click here to see a spreadsheet detailing the county's costs.

That’s about $115,000 less than what the county budgeted, said County Administrator Joel Horn.

“I think it didn’t cost as much as we anticipated in 2012,” Horn said. “Hopefully, that will be the case this year as well, but we have to kind of plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Sheley, 33, was sentenced Jan. 16 to life without parole for the bludgeoning death of Russell Reed, 93, of rural Sterling, who was killed on June 23, 2008.

Police and prosecutors believe Reed was the first of eight people Sheley killed during a drug- and alcohol-fueled killing spree in late June 2008.

He already is serving life without parole in the death of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg.

He is tentatively scheduled to be tried June 3 in the deaths of Brock Branson, 29, his fiancée Kilynna Blake, 20, her 2-year-old son Dayan, and Kenneth Ulve.

All were killed in their Rock Falls apartment June 28, 2008, according to police.

Sheley also is charged in the deaths of an Arkansas couple in Festus, Mo.

In January 2012, the Galesburg Register-Mail reported that Knox County spent $70,748.82 to try Sheley.

Sheley had at first faced the death penalty in the Knox County case. In those cases, the state pays all costs.

Horn said that if Knox County had to foot the bill for the entire proceedings, the county would have spent at least $250,000.

Using that number, the Whiteside County budgeted $200,000 for the Reed trial.

While he doesn’t expect the second Whiteside trial to be more expensive than the first, the county has budgeted $250,000, just to be safe, Horn said.

The biggest expenditure for the Reed trial was attorney fees for Sheley’s court-appointed attorney, Jeremy Karlin, who charged the county $62,028.91.

Karlin also represented Sheley in his Knox County case and will represent him again when he is tried for the Rock Falls murders.

Whiteside County set Karlin’s rate at $120 an hour, less than half of his private practice fee.

Between October and November alone, Karlin logged nearly 207 hours on the case, according to court documents.

Another big expenditure was $16,809.53 for forensic testing and expert services.

Forensic pathologist Scott Denton, who performed the autopsy on Reed, was paid $3,000 for his expert testimony during the trial.

The total expenditures released to Sauk Valley Media through a Freedom of Information Act did not include trial costs of the sheriff’s department.

Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi estimated that he spent roughly $5,000 for court security during jury selection and trial.

Wilhelmi, Chief Deputy Tim Cain, two lieutenants, and three detectives were in the courtroom for jury selection and the trial.

Sheley, who is serving his sentence at the Joliet Correctional Center, came to every court appearance and each day of the trial with four or five correctional officers.

Sheley was not shackled during the trial, which meant guards stayed close by.

Wilhelmi said that having the guards there to share in some of the workload probably saved his department about $3,000 in overtime fees.

Prosecutors are paid salary, so overtime fees were not incurred.

Horn said that keeping the trial in Whiteside County also saved the county greatly.

Karlin wanted the trial be moved out of Whiteside County, citing the extraordinary amount of pretrial publicity surrounding the case.

That request was denied by Judge Jeffrey O’Connor, chief judge of the 14th Judicial Circuit.

O’Connor had to step down for medical reasons, and Judge F. Michael Meersman took over.

Meersman said last month that O’Connor will preside over Sheley’s second Whiteside County case. Karlin said he again intends to file a motion to move the trial.

By the numbers

Fees for Galesburg attorney Jeremy Karlin: $62,028.79

Forensic testing/expert services: $16,809.53

Prosecution expense (Testimony/services): $3,500

Transcripts/court reporter contracts: $2,032.20

Witness fees: $64

Lunches for jurors: $250.58

Extradition costs (meals) $86

Conference/Training: $422.60

Final cost: $85,193.70

Source: Whiteside County Administrator

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