Holiday Hills shooter appeals conviction, says rights were violated at trial

HOLIDAY HILLS – The former Holiday Hills man serving a 135-year sentence for shooting at three McHenry County Sheriff’s deputies, one of whom later died from complications related to his injury, has said he was robbed of a fair trial, and wants judges to overturn his convictions.

A case that brought a convoy of armed police and K-9 officers to a Holiday Hills neighborhood in 2014 was again argued Jan. 18 when appellate attorneys went toe-to-toe on whether Scott Peters’ constitutional rights were violated when stomach pains prompted him to leave the courtroom while witnesses continued to take the stand in his absence during the second day of his 2015 trial. Attorneys are awaiting appellate justices’ final ruling, for which a tentative date has not yet been scheduled.

Although at the time of the trial McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather said she didn’t believe Peters was in any real pain, appellate attorney Sherry Silvern said Peters’ injuries were bolstered by video footage captured on a correctional officer’s body camera.

“There was a body cam on that followed him from his cell, through trying to get dressed – falling face first off the bench as they were trying to get him dressed for court – all the time he was hollering in pain,” Silvern said. “Several times throughout the videos you can see on his lower right abdomen that there was a huge hernia distending. You could see it clear as day.”

In April 2015, a jury found Peters guilty on each of the 15 charges filed against him. He’s now serving a 135-year prison sentence at Menard Correctional Center for attempted murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm stemming from the 2014 shooting.

Peters fired more than a dozen rounds at McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputies Dwight Maness, Khalia Satkiewicz and Eric Luna who responded to the Holiday Hills home Oct. 16, 2014, for a well-being check.

As the deputies retreated, Peters fired more rounds from his AR-15 rifle, eventually shooting Maness in the back and leg, and Satkiewicz in the leg and chest, although her vest stopped that bullet.

Maness’ femur was shattered, and a vein in his leg was severed in the shooting. After 15 surgeries, he never regained the ability to walk. He spent months recovering, but developed a blood clot in his lungs and died unexpectedly at age 47 during a physical therapy appointment Sept. 14, 2015.

Maness’ wife, Sue Maness, wants to see Peters stay behind bars.

“My entire world got turned upside down when the shooting occurred, and I lost my entire world when my husband died,” she said. “Aside from our kids, he was the world to me. It took a long time to get my head back together because I had children. That’s the only thing that has kept me going. And the fact that [Peters] was behind bars for life is a small comfort, but it’s a comfort nonetheless. He should definitely remain there.”

Sue Maness called Peters’ claims “silly” and said if he were granted a new trial on certain charges, she would have him tried on murder charges.

“The only reason I didn’t push on him being charged with that is because I didn’t want to put my family through another trial,” Sue Maness said. “If he gets his conviction overturned – absolutely, we will go for the murder charges.”

At trial, Luna testified that as Peters fired he yelled, “I’m a U.S. Army Paratrooper, I hope you’re ready to die today because I am.”

Peters fled the area after the shooting and eluded police for 16 hours, setting into motion an areawide manhunt.

“[Peters’] actions also indicated an intent to kill. [He] began to fire through the front door of his house, knowing that the officers stood nearby, having just knocked and asked him to come out,” prosecutors wrote in their response to the appeal.

Silvern began her Jan. 18 argument by admitting Peters’ flaws, which she said include a “bitterness and pessimism toward the court and law enforcement.”

“Scott Peters is not and was not an easy client to represent,” Silvern said. “The nature of his charged offenses makes it difficult for everyone involved, and the record shows a man who is brash, distrustful, demanding, possibly bordering paranoid, possibly having been diagnosed with PTSD, and he could probably be described as a survivalist and having that mentality.”

The appeal includes six total arguments, including claims that Peter never fired his gun directly at Luna; rather, the bullet that hit Satkiewicz’s vest ricocheted off toward the other officer. Silvern also argued that the public defenders appointed to represent Peters at trial failed him by allowing testimony to continue while Peters was being treated for his hernia.

Prosecutors and appellate judges presiding over the Jan. 18 arguments, however, pointed out that Peters had earned a reputation for exaggerating his injuries in the past.

“He was unable to be quiet and listen to the judge, despite repeated admonishments to do so,” prosecutors wrote in their response to Peters’ appeal. “The trial court was required to determine whether to go forward with the trial without defendant’s presence because defendant, according to the nurse who examined him, was faking or greatly exaggerating his hernia pain to absent himself from trial.”

Peters has filed his own federal lawsuit naming Assistant Public Defenders Angelo Mourelatos and Rick Behof along with a number of correctional officers and jail medical staff, claiming he didn’t receive immediate medical treatment that day.

Another point of contention was whether McHenry County prosecutors crossed a line with statements made during their closing argument at trial, reportedly referring to Peters as “John Wayne draped in the American flag” and calling him a “lying liar” who “lies through his teeth.”

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally declined to comment while the appeal is ongoing.

Appellate prosecutor Sally Swiss has said everything mentioned in the Assistant State’s Attorney’s Michael Combs’ closing statements were based on evidence presented at trial.

“We have an unusual defendant here, and he did – in a sense – drape himself in the flag,” Swiss said. “He was all about Airborne, all about his service.”

Peters’ attorneys, Behof and Mourelatos, previously filed a motion for a new trial, alleging in part that Prather erred in not allowing a doctor to testify that Peters suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prather rejected their earlier motion, and Peters later filed his own, which also was denied.

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