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home : news : local   April 29, 2016

10/18/2013 5:24:00 AM
Meth-hauling suspect strikes out at pre-trial

Tom Collins
NewsTribune Senior Reporter

OTTAWA — James Saxen insisted he wasn’t speeding. The California man wasn’t fighting a ticket; he wanted a judge to throw out a drug seizure on the grounds his traffic stop was no good.

But when Saxen got a chance to take the stand Thursday, he uttered a Freudian slip he’d probably like to have back.

Public defender Tim Cappellini asked his client how fast he was going on Dec. 12 on Interstate 80 in Peru.

“I was going 74 mph,” Saxen testified, then hastily corrected himself, “No, 64.”

Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. didn’t acknowledge the slip. The judge did, however, say Saxen was “not credible in his testimony” and refused to grant a motion to suppress evidence.

Saxen, 47, of Winton, Calif., will have one more chance to try and gut his case before a jury decides whether he was hauling a near-record amount of methamphetamine precursor. The stakes are high: Saxen faces up to 60 years if convicted.

Saxen initially faced 6-30 years in prison after the roadside seizure, during which police recovered a meth precursor weighing about 900 grams; but, typical of meth cases, a crime lab was needed to confirm what the substance was.

Prosecutors later announced a lab confirmed the substance was a key ingredient in meth manufacture and that Saxen now was eligible for twice as many years behind bars.

Saxen’s next (and perhaps last) option is to challenge whether the arresting officer with the La Salle County State’s Attorney Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Team was authorized to patrol the road last year.

Investigator Jeff Gaither retired from state police after a distinguished career, but another of his arrests is on appeal as to whether he was cleared for duty with the SAFE Team.

Gaither had had to submit fresh paperwork and fingerprints with the SAFE Team and those may not have been processed when Saxen was arrested.
Saxen and Cappellini will challenge Gaither’s credentials at a hearing set for Nov. 1. Meanwhile, the separate case in which Gaither’s authority was challenged (at least at the trial court level) remains pending before an appeals court.

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or

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