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Jury finds Saltzman Guilty

Sentencing March 28: Had Been Accused of Attempted 1st-Degree Murder of Stepfather

Jury Finds Saltzman Guilty
Sentencing March 28: Had Been Accused of Attempted 1St-Degree Murder of Stepfather

JOLIET — A jury on Thursday found 22-year-old Brent Saltzman guilty of attempted murder and aggravated battery for the beating of his stepfather, Will County Treasurer Jack Weber.

Weber’s daughters and his friends sat in silence as the judge announced the guilty verdicts on two counts of aggravated battery. But they cried out with emotion as the judge read the guilty verdicts on the two more serious charges of attempted first-degree murder.

Jurors deliberated for three hours and 40 minutes Thursday afternoon.

Saltzman faces up to 60 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 28.

The guilty verdicts capped five days of emotional testimony.

The prosecution presented evidence aimed at proving that Saltzman intended to kill his then 63-year-old stepfather by striking him repeatedly with his hands.

Saltzman’s defense attorneys presented no witnesses.

But through the cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses, they attempted to show that Weber fell during a family argument with his stepson and knocked his head against the bathtub and floor in the bathroom of his Shorewood home on Oct. 8, 2000. `A violent tyrant’

State’s Attorney Jeff Tomczak urged jurors not to believe the defense’s theory that Weber was the victim in a simple domestic squabble that got out of hand.

Tomczak pointed at the defendant and called him “a spoiled brat” and “a bully” who struck his mother and then began to beat Weber after his stepfather reached for the telephone to call police during the argument.

“These folks were living with a tyrant, a violent tyrant,” Tomczak said.

“This was a guy who wouldn’t even give a 63-year-old man the right to square off with him.”

During his closing comments, Tomczak accused Saltzman of giving Weber “a sucker punch” that knocked the treasurer cold.

The defendant then got on top of his helpless stepfather and repeatedly struck him, fracturing his skull in two places, shattering the bones on the left side of his face and causing internal brain injuries.

The respected Republican county treasurer, who is now 65, remains in a suburban rehabilitation center.

He is not expected to fully recover from his brain injuries. Conflicting testimony

Defense attorney George Lynch argued that Saltzman struck Weber with his elbow only once and that the treasurer suffered his life- threatening head injuries when he fell.

Tomczak, however, urged jurors to consider statements made to police and family friends by Weber’s wife, 51-year-old Bonnie Weber, who is the only witness to the brutal attack.

Bonnie Weber testified early this week that she did not see her son strike her husband.

But Tomczak, who held up photographs depicting Jack Weber’s injuries, reminded jurors that she had told friends and police investigators on the day of the attack that Saltzman had repeatedly struck her husband with his fists.

And he asked jurors to remember the tape of a 911 call that a desperate Bonnie Weber placed on the day her husband was attacked.

The state’s attorney quoted Bonnie Weber from the tape: “`My son tried to kill my husband.’ That’s the sum and substance of what Bonnie Weber saw.”

The defense did not know what to make of Bonnie Weber’s testimony.

Lynch conceded that she did not tell the truth.

But in a bizarre twist, the defense attorney suggested that police had botched the investigation by ruling her out too quickly as a suspect. Support for Weber

The courtroom was packed with Jack Weber’s friends and family members.

Among those in attendance were Joliet Councilmen Joe Shetina, who testified for the prosecution, and Robert Hacker.

Joliet Mayor Art Schultz listened to testimony on Wednesday afternoon.

And Will County Sheriff Brendan Ward also attended portions of the trial.

Retired restaurateur Earl D’Amico, a longtime friend of Jack Weber, was present for the entire trial.

Jack Weber belonged to a crowd that for 40 years had met for lunch at D’Amico’s Joliet restaurants.

“I’m here for the kids and out of my feelings for Jack,” he said.

“He’s a good friend.

He’s like a brother.”

Jack Weber’s daughters, Susan Dienslake and Judith Weber, have declined to comment while the trial was pending.

Susan Dienslake spoke through tears after the verdicts were announced.

“It’s been a very emotional and stressful week,” she said. “We’re very relieved that the trial is over.”

The sisters said they never doubted that Saltzman intended to kill their father during that beating.

They noted that Jack Weber had placed a deadbolt on his bedroom door out of fear that his stepson might harm him.

On the morning of the attack, Saltzman easily forced open the door, breaking the deadbolt and splintering the wooden frame.

Bonnie Weber sat quietly while waiting for the jury to return Thursday afternoon.

She pulled a rosary from her purse and prayed intently on a bench outside Judge Stephen White’s courtroom late in the afternoon.

Her ex-husband, Bunny Saltzman, who is Brent Saltzman’s father, placed a hand on Bonnie Weber’s shoulder when she buried her face in her hands.

She said Thursday that the jury had made “a giant mistake” and promised to appeal.

She insisted that the truth did not come out during the trial.