Man in prison for Edwardsville attorney’s murder wants to withdraw guilty plea
METRO EAST (KMOV) -- The man serving a 70-year prison sentence for murdering a prominent Metro East attorney now says he wants a new trial.
He says the judge on the case had a conflict of interest, something he told News 4 Chief Investigator Lauren Trager on the eve of the trial in 2021.
“Someone told me the judge took money from them, that’s a conflict of interest,” Timothy Banowetz said in October 2021.
He spoke with News 4 over the phone from inside the Madison County jail. He was facing murder charges in the death of prominent attorney Randy Gori after a brutal attack at Gori’s Edwardsville home.
He had said he wanted new attorneys and a change of judge.
News 4 did confirm that Gori, his family, and law firm had contributed more than $40,000 to the judge’s previous elections over the last decade.
“I feel like I should have a judge that is impartial,” said Banowetz.
But in a surprise move, he pleaded guilty and was then sentenced. He’s since been sitting in a Pontiac, Illinois, prison.
Now, in a new filing obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat, in his own handwriting, Banowetz says his plea was not voluntary.
In the filing, he mentions how he told News 4 about the “bribe,” but instead, the judge issued a gag order, and he was blocked from using the phone.
Illinois State University Law Professor Thomas McClure says it’s rare for a defendant to withdraw their guilty plea, but the timing will be an issue.
“He’s got a tremendous burden because he has to show there’s a constitutional reason and also why he waited so long to make this assertion,” McClure said.
The judge in the case had previously said in court that her goal was to ensure a fair and impartial trial, saying she would follow her oath.
But that same judge has now set a hearing to listen to Banowetz’s request to withdraw his plea. And they’re asking for more information from the department of corrections about when he mailed the request in. Banowetz has said he mailed it a year ago.
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