METROPOLIS, Ill. -- A hearing in the attempt to get a nearly three-year-old sex assault case dismissed Friday featured heated exchanges and multiple admonishments from a judge that the day's hearing wasn't a trial or deposition.
Defense attorney Sarah Schlossberg has been working to have the case against Samuel Andrew Mizell tossed out, as she believes evidence in the case was planted.
Multiple Massac sheriff's officials admitted in a hearing last month that all the physical evidence in the case was lost, as was a file containing the recording of an interview between the investigator and the mother of the two alleged juvenile victims.
Friday's evidence included testimony from Danny McHaney, the deputy who serves as the department's evidence custodian.
McHaney said he never saw the physical evidence collected in the case, including a bottle of massage lotion, a condom, a towel, a box of Pokemon cards and some vape juice.
McHaney testified, as evidence custodian, he's tasked with checking temporary holding lockers where deputies are supposed to leave evidence after tagging them. McHaney then enters them into a database before putting them into the evidence vault.
He testified Friday he never entered evidence in Mizell's case into the system or put it in the vault. He said he was only made aware evidence was missing when Investigator Chad Kaylor asked earlier this year for him to retrieve the evidence, and he couldn't find the evidence Kaylor was requesting.
When Schlossberg asked if McHaney knew of any other cases in which the sheriff's office had lost evidence, McHaney replied, "The only incident I'm aware of is this case, Mr. Mizell's."
Schlossberg also questioned other relatives of the children who were at the home on the night the male child first alleged any sexual misconduct -- which, at the time, only alleged Mizell had shown the child pornography and masturbated in front of him, according to testimony.
Only later did forensic interviews with the children turn up allegations of other sex acts.
The child's mother, who reported the allegation to police, testified only one Massac deputy, Josh Wiley, had responded to the home that night -- which corroborated Wiley's testimony that night.
The children's aunt and the aunt's ex-husband, though, testified that two other officers also responded the night of Aug. 1, 2016, that one had carried a camera and they both went into Mizell's bedroom and came out carrying sacks with some items in them.
A search warrant was served two weeks later, after which Kaylor and other officials testified they found the evidence that had been later lost.
Various points of witness testimony proved inconsistent with other statements and testimony of previous witnesses.
Circuit Judge Joe Lieberman routinely admonished Schlossberg Friday for what he saw as her efforts to discover information, rather than bring up points directly relevant to the motion to dismiss.
State's Attorney Josh Stratemeyer pointed out the statements by the children's aunt and the ex-husband contained multiple identical lines, including chunks of paragraphs that matched word-for-word including a typo.
Schlossberg said after the hearing the statements were not direct transcriptions, but that they had been distilled down from the original interviews, and then approved by each of the witnesses in order to make sure they were an accurate representation of the interview.
That line of questioning led Stratemeyer to attempt to explore Schlossberg's relationship to Mizell's family -- a line of questioning Leberman shut down early, though he allowed the relationship to be established.
Schlossberg said after the hearing, though she's unrelated by blood to Mizell, she recently became related to him by family.
The day left multiple witnesses still un-questioned, and Leberman set the next hearing on that motion for Aug. 23.
The attorneys are also set to discuss a motion to quash the subpoenas for the children to testify regarding the motion to dismiss the case.
Stratemeyer strenuously argued the children shouldn't be forced to testify due to the hardship it would be for them to travel back to the area, having since moved away, and that bringing them in to testify before the trial could subject them to unnecessary trauma.
Schlossberg insisted her questioning would be limited to aspects of the investigation and she wouldn't ask them to relive the abuse.
Leberman declined to rule on that motion until the defense has presented its remaining witnesses at the August hearing.
Schlossberg has also filed a motion for sanctions against Stratemeyer because she claims he refused to communicate with her regarding her efforts to serve a subpoena to the children's mother.
Schlossberg said she eventually notified Stratemeyer she was sending a subpoena to the mother's last known address, and asked Stratemeyer to make sure the mother was served, but Stratemeyer didn't respond and the mother didn't show up to the last hearing.
Stratemeyer declined to comment citing the ongoing nature of the case.
Schlossberg said she believes the case is important not just because of allegations of police misconduct or incompetence, but because her client is innocent and his constitutional rights have been violated.