Trial date for Newman priest could be chosen at hearing

By Mark Rivera

Tuesday marks the next step in a Newman priest’s trial.

The Rev. Christopher Layden, priest at the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, will appear before a judge at the Champaign County courthouse for a felony pre-trial hearing.

Layden was arrested on Sept. 11 after police found three grams of powdered cocaine during a search of Newman and its rectory. He was charged with two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and one count of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

Layden entered a plea of not guilty for all charges and requested a trial by jury, according to docket information provided by the Champaign County Circuit Clerk. Additional case-file information was unavailable for use.

Mark Lipton, criminal and traffic attorney of Meyer Capel Attorneys in Champaign, will represent Layden and Dan Clifton of the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office will prosecute.

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Steven Ziegler, first assistant state’s attorney, explained that at a felony pre-trial, either a date for trial is set, or the case is continued to another date.

Continuance seems more likely in this case.

“I think (Layden’s) attorney will move to continue,” Clifton said. He said he was unable to comment further on the pending case.

Lipton declined to comment entirely.

Attorney Thomas F. Koester, of Phebus & Koester law offices, said a felony pre-trail, or status call, is not particularly substantial.

“It’s basically a judge running through a long list of cases and giving a next date depending on the case,” Koester said. “The attorney announces the status of the case and where it’s going.”

However, where Layden’s case will go is unknown.

Koester said there were several roads where a felony pre-trial hearing can lead.

He said case participants could reach a plea agreement, enter pre-trial motions, have a trial date set, or the case could simply be continued.

“They have a pre-trail meeting once every month,” Koester said.

He added that these were quite short.

“You’ll go in there and see a hundred some cases,” he said. “Each case takes about 20 seconds.”

Sam Hyde, sophomore in LAS, said when he first heard about Layden’s arrest he thought it made the University look terrible.

“I know we made the Saturday Night Live weekend update for that week, which was funny, but it made the University look really bad,” Hyde said.

“They’ll probably ask for a continuance, just so they can get something to not make it look so bad.”