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By DAVE FOPAY, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
CHARLESTON It was “very tempting” to give Patrick L. Nester probation for his armed standoff with police, a judge said Wednesday, given Nester’s apparent progress since the incident.
However, Circuit Judge Teresa Righter noted that Nester had four guns, one of which he used during the standoff, for a “significant time” before the incident. As Nester was being sentenced because he couldn’t legally have a firearm, probation wasn’t appropriate, Righter concluded.
Righter then sentenced Nester to three years in prison for the charge of possession of a weapon by a felon to which he pleaded guilty in January. The judge gave Nester time to take care of personal affairs and agreed to let him wait until Wednesday of next week to report to jail to await transport to prison.
Nester, 54, whose current address on record is on Prairie Avenue in Mattoon, engaged police in about a 90-minute standoff on the morning of June 13 outside the house on Lake Road near Lake Paradise where he lived at the time. He had a shotgun which he fired in the air twice before surrendering peacefully.
Also during the incident, Nester aimed the gun at his head and pulled its trigger, but it didn’t fire because the safety was on. During his testimony Tuesday, he claimed the gun fired accidentally while he was trying to change the safety, and he surrendered after that because he had no more ammunition.
The charges to which Nester pleaded guilty referred only to the fact that he had an earlier felony conviction, a 1985 aggravated battery conviction, which meant he couldn’t legally own a firearm. A charge of reckless discharge of a firearm and other weapons charges when dismissed.
Nester testified Wednesday that he had the shotgun and three handguns in his truck, and they belonged to recently deceased friends and he found and realized he still had them “the day before I did my stupidity” on June 13.
Those deaths were a big reason for a bout of severe depression, he said, and the anti-depressant medication a doctor prescribed led to the side effects that he described as like “100 little crazy bugs inside me” and on which he blamed the standoff.
“On June 13, I didn’t want to be me anymore,” Nester said. “Do I want to live now? Yeah, I do.”
Defense attorney Lance Freezeland of Effingham recommended probation for Nester and said it was only because of a doctor’s advice that he took the medication that made him suicidal. The medicine ended up “making him think he wanted to blow his brains out,” but because he’s no longer taking the drug and along with counseling and support of his church and friends, he no longer felt that way, Freezeland said.
“The appropriate sentence would temper justice with mercy,” Freezeland said. “We don’t send people to prison who want to kill themselves.”
However, Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Neumann, who recommended the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, contended that whether Nester was suicidal wasn’t as important to the matter at hand as the fact that he was illegally in possession of firearms.
“It still couldn’t happen if he didn’t have those guns,” Neumann said. “It shouldn’t have happened to begin with. He wouldn’t be able to create an incident of this magnitude if he’d followed the law.”
Neumann called several police officers who responded to the incident to testify Wednesday, and all of them said they felt their safety was at-risk during the standoff. Lt. Tadd Freezeland of the Coles County Sheriff’s Department said he was “absolutely” concerned about himself and others and, had Nester aimed the shotgun at him, “I would have shot and killed Mr. Nester.”
Righter also fined Nester $5,000, equal to the amount of bond he posted, and recommended him for a prison system mental health treatment program, but it will be up to prison officials whether to assign him to the program. The charges to which Nester pleaded guilty allow for day-for-day credit for the sentence, what’s sometimes called “time off for good behavior.”
Contact Dave Fopay at email@example.com or 348-5733.