MEYER TRIAL

Former alderman found not guilty

2013-02-26T03:45:00Z 2013-02-26T05:23:25Z Former alderman found not guiltyBrian Wellner The Quad-City Times
February 26, 2013 3:45 am  • 

After former Davenport alderman Keith Meyer was found not guilty in his assault case Monday, it was his friend, Neal Hallowell, who delivered the news to him at his home.

Because Meyer was charged with a misdemeanor and requested a sealed verdict, he didn’t have to appear in Scott County District Court when the jury returned its decision after last week’s trial. Apparently, Meyer was unaware Hallowell had made arrangements to deliver the news, so he was surprised when Hallowell showed up at his house Monday afternoon.

“They’re coming to take me away?” Meyer asked Hallowell.

Hallowell shouted as Meyer, who has a hearing impairment and stood right in front of his friend, strained to hear the verdict.

Meyer’s only response was to ask his friend, “Why did they tell you?”

Hallowell had invited a Quad-City Times reporter into the house with him, but Meyer ordered the reporter to leave and declined comment on the verdict.

“He was expecting the worst,” Hallowell said about the outcome of the trial. “He’s at a point of total exhaustion and breakdown.”

Meyer represented himself at his assault trial. He spent the past four months since his arrest preparing for it, Hallowell said.

He faced two years in prison if the jury had found him guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon. He was accused of fetching a shotgun from his house and pointing it at his neighbor, John Fahs, on Nov. 11.

In court, Meyer had admitted to getting the gun but said he did so in “self defense.”

Meyer gave his own opening and closing statements. He cross-examined the prosecutor’s witnesses. He tried calling his own witnesses to the stand, but Associate District Judge Cheryl Traum denied 17 and allowed two. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce evidence.

The jurors deliberated a little more than an hour Friday and about four hours Monday before concluding that Meyer wasn’t guilty.

At least half the jurors were escorted from the courthouse by several sheriff’s deputies. The deputies said it is not particularly unusual for them to be asked to see jurors to their vehicles.

Seven of the jurors were seen shaking hands in the parking lot after the verdict. They said they did not wish to be interviewed by a reporter.

Traum declined a request Monday for an interview.

Assistant Scott County Attorney Will Ripley, who prosecuted the case, could not be reached for comment.

Meyer told Hallowell he wanted to be alone, at least for now.

“He prefers solitude,” Hallowell said. “The media has never given him a fair shake, and he won’t give them a second of his time.”

Meyer served two terms on the Davenport City Council and lost his bid for a third. These days, he’s busy growing raspberries and grapes on a hilly estate that surrounds his 113-year-old brick home, with its bracketed eaves, stone window headers, porte cochere and third-floor dormers.

He bottles wine under the Black Lab Crossing label. Camp McClellan Cellars in the Village of East Davenport sells Meyer’s wine. A store manager declined to comment.

Hallowell said he hopes Meyer can patch up his relationship with Fahs.

Fahs testified that Meyer used to baby sit his girlfriend’s children before the two neighbors began feuding over speed bumps Meyer had built on a driveway they share. Fahs could not be reached for comment Monday.

Hallowell said friends prayed for Meyer all weekend.

“They hoped the verse he opened with would not be returned void,” Hallowell said, referring to Psalm 86, Verse 17, with which Meyer began his opening statement at his trial: “And that justice prevails for those who can’t defend themselves.”

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