A U.S. Veterans Affairs police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a Navy veteran earlier this year appeared in court Friday once again free on bond.
Timothy R. Thomas, 40, of Highland, posted a $7,000 cash bond Thursday afternoon after Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez granted his petition to let bail.
Thomas appeared before Vasquez on Friday morning, along with attorneys Christopher Cooper and Ben Murphy.
Thomas had requested a “gag order” against the wife to slain Navy veteran Nicholas Lile, 42, who died after Thomas shot him Jan. 3 in the basement of Lile’s home near Lowell.
Thomas told police he shot Lile, but claimed it was in self-defense, court records show. He initially was charged with voluntary manslaughter, but prosecutors upgraded the charge to murder.
Thomas’ attorneys alleged Jessika Lile’s social media posts “can be interpreted as an intent to do violence or calls for violence to the defendant, his lawyers and the judiciary.”
After a lengthy discussion at the bench with Thomas’ attorneys and prosecutors, Vasquez granted a gag order with respect to the attorneys involved.
However, he stopped short of ordering Lile’s wife, Jessika, to stop making social media posts. Instead, Vasquez asked Lake County Supervisory Deputy Prosecutor Michelle Jatkiewicz and Deputy Prosecutor Jennie Bell to talk with Jessika Lile to mitigate any pretrial publicity.
Vasquez also granted prosecutors’ request to return a handgun to Jessika Lile. She testified she owns the gun, which police took from her home the night her husband was killed. The gun was stored in a bedroom closet and was not used in the shooting.
Vasquez told Thomas he should avoid any contact with Jessika Lile or her child as a “loose condition” of his bond, but the judge did not grant a motion for a no-contact order. Such an order would affect Thomas’ right to legally carry a firearm.
Vasquez said he would reconsider his decisions on a gag order and no-contact order if circumstances change.
Thomas’ attorneys did not object to the state’s request for a DNA sample, which must be taken within 10 days of Friday’s hearing.
Murder defendants typically are not afforded bail. However, they have a constitutional right to request bail hearings.
If a court determines, after hearing evidence and testimony, that the presumption of guilt on a murder charge is not strong, or that the evidence shows a lesser offense, such as voluntary manslaughter, was more likely committed, a request for bail can be granted.
If convicted of murder, Thomas could face 45 to 65 years in prison. The possible penalty on a voluntary manslaughter conviction would be 10 to 30 years.
Thomas also is now facing a firearm enhancement, which — if convicted — would add five to 20 years to any sentence he might receive.
Vasquez scheduled Thomas’ trial to begin Nov. 15.
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