SYCAMORE – A jury Tuesday found William Ikegwuonu not guilty of residential burglary, ending a 21⁄2-year saga for the former Northern Illinois University football player.
In the second day of testimony at the trial of Ikegwuonu, 22, jurors heard Safyian Baba testify that a few days after the break-in at his townhouse, he spoke with his own roommate and with Ikegwuonu’s roommate, who was a friend. Ikegwuonu’s roommate then drove Baba to the DeKalb County state’s attorney’s office to drop the charges, he said. He testified he also spoke to someone in the office over the phone and submitted a letter two weeks later describing the incident as a “misunderstanding.”
Prosecutors said Ikegwuonu and another man broke into the townhouse Baba rented in the 800 block of Fotis Drive early in the morning of Nov. 26, 2006. When Baba returned home about 2 a.m., he found the men in the darkened lower level of the townhouse, possibly holding an Xbox game console that belonged in the house, according to police. The men then ran from the scene.
Police reports identified the second suspect in the case as Ikegwuonu’s brother, Jack Ikegwuonu, who is being tried separately. His trial is slated to begin May 7, and attorneys have been instructed not to mention his identity or any information about his case during William Ikegwuonu’s trial.
Baba testified Monday that he and William Ikegwuonu have become friends since the incident. Ikegwuonu’s attorney, Frank Martinez, asked Judge Robbin Stuckert for a directed verdict on the case, saying that the state does not have evidence to prove the men intended to take anything from the townhouse. The defense has argued that the suspects went to the house looking for a party, let themselves in and panicked when Baba came home and yelled at them.
“It does not appear he took or attempted to take anything,” Martinez said of his client. “It appears at best there was a passing, fleeting thought of, ‘I might take something if anything looked good,’ but that was all.”
Stuckert denied the motion, citing state’s evidence that Ikegwuonu told police he had damaged the door frame getting into the house and that he had looked around the apartment to see if anything “looked good.” She also cited the suspects’ flight and Baba’s initial statement to police in denying the request.
Prosecutor Julie Trevarthan asked Baba about $100 cash he received from Ikegwuonu’s roommate after the incident and before he tried to drop the charges. Baba said the money was to repair damage done to the door in the incident and was not related to his decision to drop the charges.
Ikegwuonu was a reserve strong safety for the NIU football team at the time of the incident, but he was suspended from the team after his arrest.