Glenn Wheet found guilty on day three of trial

NOW: Glenn Wheet found guilty on day three of trial

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The verdict is in-- Glenn Wheet, the man who drove his SUV into a crowd of demonstrators protesting police brutality back in 2020, was found guilty of criminal recklessness-- a Level Six felony. 

The jury took just over three hours to deliver that verdict-- just after the state and defense laid out their final arguments. 

Deputy Prosecutor Kristen Kocsis argued that Wheet showed recklessness when he drove his SUV over a row of orange traffic cones that Mishawaka Police had placed to help protect demonstrators, who marched to the Main Street Bridge on July 4, 2020. Video evidence showed Wheet initially drove past the protest-- as all other traffic had done-- before he parked his car in a nearby parking lot and contemplated his next move. 

According to Kocsis, Wheet had "so many other options available," such as choosing another route to get to his destination. She added "Common sense tells you not to drive into a crowd of people."

However, defense attorney Jeff Kimmel argued that the bridge should never have been closed, as it's a main route to a hospital, and the demonstration was illegal. Kimmel tried to sway jury members by arguing the demonstration had an anti-police message. 

Kocsis fired back-- and said "The right to use a bridge does not trump personal safety," and that just because a demonstration might not represent everyone's views or be legal, it does not give anyone the right to drive through a crowd-- an argument she believed compelled the jury. 

“Even if one person is doing something wrong doesn’t excuse someone else doing something like the criminal recklessness here," she said. "I think because Mishawaka decided to close that bridge down so they could have a safe spot, that had a huge influence on my perspective of the case, and I think the jurors as well.”

Kocsis also believed it was the evidence presented by the state that the jurors couldn't ignore. 

She said after the verdict came down “What this really came down to, for me and for the office position, was the acts that day."

Those acts were caught on videos-- which showed Wheet first driving away from the protesters, but then turning around and driving through traffic cones and then the demonstration itself. 

Kimmel argued that those cones could have been hard to see for a driver to see from the road-- even though much of the traffic driving through downtown Mishawaka that day diverted away from the bridge. 

Wheet himself argued in his testimony that the car that initially drove by the protest in the videos, while looking very similar to his, wasn't necessarily his own-- an argument that Kocsis did not believe the jury could buy after they went over the videos thoroughly. 

“They took a few hours with this," she said. "I think they really went over the videos and each part of the video, which is the crucial part of this case. Certain clips, when you’re looking at it can look one way versus the other, but when you see it start to finish, I think that was important and I appreciate that they took the time to do that.”

Kimmel did not respond to a request for comment. Wheet's sentencing hearing is set for April 13-- and since this is a first time felony charge for Wheet, the judge can determine if his Level Six felony charge can be lowered to a Class-A misdemeanor. 

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