Charges dropped against Rodney Yoder

Saturday, March 19, 2005

CHESTER, Ill. -- Criminal charges have been dropped against Rodney Yoder, a former involuntary mental patient who drew national attention for criticizing the state's mental health system.

Randolph County State's Attorney Randy Rodewald said Friday that charges were dropped Thursday because his investigation showed that he probably could not get a conviction against Yoder. The charges were filed by Rodewald's predecessor, former prosecutor Michael Burke.

"It would have been very difficult to get a finding of guilty," Rodewald said. "Plus, the defendant had already served about 21 months in jail. Even if I was able to get a conviction, he would already have served his time."

Rodney Yoder, 46, was released in January on $10,000 bail from the Randolph County jail, where he has been held since April 2003 on attempted murder and aggravated battery charges.

The charges stem from an incident at the Chester Mental Health Center, where Yoder had been involuntarily held since 1991. Yoder was charged for allegedly attacking a fellow patient with a sock crammed with batteries.

Rodewald said he talked to the victim, who downplayed the incident as a "mutual fight" and the victim said he didn't want to press charges. Also, security aides at the mental health facility in Chester didn't get to the scene until after the fight started.

Yoder said the news was good.

"But that's what they should do," said Yoder, who is living with a friend in Glen Carbon, Ill. "I haven't committed a crime."

Yoder has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Burke and health department officials in Chester and at the state level. Meanwhile, Yoder said he is trying to get on with his life.

"I've made up some business cards," he said. "Rodney Yoder: Handyman."

The former mechanic hasn't taken on any handyman jobs yet. He said he's been too busy.

"I'm setting up my life," he said. "I'm looking at houses in Granite City and Madison County. I'm just like any other citizen. I have a van. I do banking. I have credit. Life goes on."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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