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OTTAWA — The Oglesby man who says he rescued two eagles — despite being told to leave the birds alone — might try to persuade a jury he knowingly broke the law because there was no other choice.
That’s called a “necessity defense.” Steve Patterson’s lawyer, La Salle attorney Tom McClintock, said necessity is one of the trial strategies under consideration. And Patterson’s judge might let him do it.
Tuesday, Patterson appeared for a pre-trial hearing on the charges filed after taking the eagles, which he said were injured. Prosecutors asked Judge Daniel J. Bute to prevent Patterson from even raising the necessity defense; but Bute wouldn’t do that.
“I’m certainly going to let him take a shot at it,” Bute said, but the judge was quick to say prosecutors could renew their motion when and if the case goes to trial.
At this point, though, nobody seems sure whether necessity applies to animals under Illinois law.
In court, Bute noted that Illinois law recognizes necessity in cases when people are at risk. He would know: As a defense lawyer, he once used necessity in getting an acquittal for a woman who escaped from prison.
But can somebody raise a necessity defense in coming to the aid of an animal? Illinois law doesn’t say necessity can’t be so raised; but attorneys haven’t found much to make a case either way.
Assistant La Salle County state’s attorney Zach Milus told Bute in open court the Patterson case is “uncharted territory.”
“Of course it is,” Bute said sarcastically. “That’s why it’s down here.”