By CARRIE FRILLMAN cfrillman@daily-chronicle.com

NFL player acquitted in burglary case

SYCAMORE — NFL player Jack Ikegwuonu's family rejoiced Friday morning when he was found not guilty of two charges of residential burglary and one charge of criminal trespassing.

Judge Kurt Klein announced the verdict for the Philadelphia Eagles defensive back just minutes after final arguments concluded Friday.

"The very competent prosecutors in this case made me think about ... and question the facts," Klein said. "But I have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. It's the law, it's a law I believe in and it's a law I'll follow. I find the defendant not guilty."

Prosecutors argued Friday that on Nov. 26, 2006, 23-year-old Ikegwuonu and his twin brother, Bill, broke into a townhouse rented by Safyian Baba in the 800 block of Fotis Drive.

The two — Bill, a former student at Northern Illinois University and Jack, who was visiting from Wisconsin — were discovered around 2 a.m. in a darkened lower level of the residence, holding an Xbox game console, prosecutor Julie Trevarthen said. The men then ran from the home, prosecutors argued.

"The home is a private place and only occupants have the right to invite guests," DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Victor Escarcida said Friday. " ... (Jack) chose to violate the privacy and security of Mr. Baba's town home. ... Nothing can justify his actions. His actions were criminal. Find him guilty."

The defense argued throughout the trial that the Ikegwuonus were simply looking for a party when they entered Baba's home that November morning. Bill — who was found not guilty of the same charges during a separate trial in April — testified on behalf of his brother Thursday. He said that he had contacted Baba's roommate, Michael Britton, earlier that night and was supposed to meet up with him.

Britton wasn't answering his phone, so the Ikegwuonus went to his townhouse, which was just down the street from where Bill lived at the time, he said. They arrived at the home and no one answered the door. They then left but upon noticing Britton's bedroom light on, Bill insisted they return to check again if he was inside, he said.

The two men fled to avoid an altercation with Baba, who entered the townhouse while intoxicated and began yelling profanities, said Ikegwuonu’s attorney, Peter Gruber.

"... If they had the intent to burglarize some place else, when the campus is a ghost town, they wouldn't go to a friend's house," Gruber said Friday, noting Britton was Bill's friend and the incident was during Thanksgiving break.

Both Britton and Baba testified last week, saying there was not party at their townhouse and that they did not have plans with the Ikegwuonus.

Gruber called the situation a misunderstanding Friday and said there is no evidence the men were trying to commit a crime when they entered the home.

"Now, could this all have been avoided if they had not gone through the door? Sure," Gruber said. "But does it corroborate a crime that they did? No."

The Xbox game console was found on the floor of the townhouse and disconnected, prosecutors argued. They also referenced police officers' testimonies about how Ikegwuonu's story changed four times.

"The truth has one version," Trevarthen said. "Not four and not five. ... There was no reason for Jack to be in that home when Michael Britton and Safyian Baba never gave him permission to be in that home."

The defendant knows the true facts, Klein said, but the evidence is not substantial enough to convict him. Friday's verdict ended a more than 2 1/2 year saga for the Ikegwuonu brothers.

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