James Love Xavier Hartman Trial
Courtesy the Galesburg Register-Mail.

A jury in Galesburg, IL found respected local farmer James Love (above) not guilty in the shooting death of Xavier Hartman. Love used a gun to defend himself against an aggressive, drunk 19-year-old body builder on that fateful night in 2018.

Since then he’s waged an expensive legal fight against a politically-motivated Assistant State’s Attorney who wanted 45 years to life from Love for killing his “unarmed” attacker.

From the Peoria Journal-Star:

GALESBURG, IL — A Galva man was found not guilty Friday of murder in connection with the June 2018 shooting of a 19-year-old who had crashed his truck on his property.

James Love, 59, of Knox Road 2000, was acquitted after about an hour of deliberations by Knox County jurors. He had faced charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm for the death of Xavier Hartman.

The two mens’ worlds collided last June. A very intoxicated 19-year-old Hartman had rolled his pickup truck adjacent to Love’s property, not far from the farmer’s residence. When the farmer came out to offer help as a good Samaritan, Hartman attacked to prevent Love from calling police.

Obviously, Hartman didn’t want the police. In addition to the drunk driving issue, he would have found himself in hot water on his probation for a mob violence arrest from the previous year. In other words, Hartman had motivation to keep himself out of the clink.

When attacked by the aggressive, stronger young man, the farmer drew a Ruger LC9s and tried racking it as Hartman pummeled him. Eventually he did get a round into the chamber and fired into the pavement to dissuade his attacker. Amazingly, Hartman pressed his attack against a drawn gun, post-warning shot.  Certainly not the most rational decision, but Hartman’s .234 blood alcohol level probably had something to do with that.

As the farmer tried to retreat back to his home, the two struggled for control of the gun. As part of this, Hartman landed some blows about the farmer’s head. Love fired a second warning shot as they grappled.

Hartman still continued the attack – almost as if emboldened by the warning shots. Some have wondered if Hartman believed, after two warning shots, the farmer simply didn’t have the guts to shoot someone.

Meanwhile, Love told the court he worried he would soon lose control of the pistol to his attacker, so he fired a third time, “aiming” low.

The round hit Hartman’s thigh. Moments later, Hartman broke off the attack (it’s remarkable how a gunshot wound can have that effect on an aggressor). Hartman ran a short distance before he collapsed and bled out in a ditch, long before police or medical help could arrive at the rural location.

Testimony given at the trial and in an earlier court hearings portrayed young Mr. Hartman as a violent, volatile drunk, according to his friend. Indeed, Xavier had such violent, unpredictable tendencies that the friend said Hartman’s own mother was scared of her son when he had been drinking.

It was bad enough that Hartman’s mother filed for an emergency order of protection against him in February, 2018.

After the night of the shooting, the politically-connected family of the deceased kid had the ear of the Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Kerr. Kerr had previously received an appointment as neighboring Henry County’s state’s attorney. He liked playing “god” when it came to charging decisions, but voters rejected him at the next election.

One thing led to another and Knox County hired him. When the Knox County State’s Attorney said he plans to retire at the end of his term, Kerr wanted to make a name for himself by prosecuting Love to raise his profile for the next election.

Unfortunately for Brian Kerr’s best laid plans to show off his prosecutorial prowess, few outside the deceased man’s family wanted to see Love prosecuted. The sheriff saw it as a righteous shoot. The Illinois State Police recommended against prosecution. Even the grand jury refused to indict Love on first degree murder, though they did try to placate Kerr by returning a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

But that didn’t satisfy Kerr. So he took the very unusual step of re-filing the murder charges himself.

The Galesburg Register-Mail had that story:

GALESBURG — In a rare move, the Knox County State’s Attorney’s office has again filed a first-degree murder charge against James Love in the June 19 shooting death of Xavier Hartman.

According to Knox County court files, prosecutors filed the same charges as they initially sought in a new case Wednesday, July 18. The charges are: first-degree murder with a mandatory firearm enhancement; Class X felony aggravated battery with a firearm; and felony aggravated discharge of a firearm.

The murder charge, if Love is convicted, carries a mandatory prison sentence of between 45 years to natural life in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

In talking with the defense team, they told me (and the court) that they wanted a speedy trial. However, ASA Kerr delayed for several months. Why? He said wanted DNA test results from the Illinois State Police. And when the results came in, Kerr didn’t even use them. After all, there was never any dispute who shot Hartman.

Meanwhile, as the pre-trial processes crawled along, Xavier Hartman’s mother worked hard to craft a very sympathetic Facebook presence, demanding justice for her son’s death. That’s understandable. A grieving mother had lost her son. At the same time though, some might interpret her demands for justice as a call for vengeance against James Love.

Indeed, James Love and his wife received a number of death threats after his arrest. None were prosecuted. Thankfully, no one acted upon those threats. And even as recently as Saturday, January 26th, the subtle threats continue in comments at the Peoria Journal-Star’s story.

Hartman’s mother also furnished a rather innocent and youthful photo of her son for the media immediately after the incident. Plenty of folks saw similarities to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case out of Florida.

James Love Xavier Hartman Trial
Courtesy UK Telegraph.
James Love Xavier Hartman Trial
Courtesy Peoria Journal-Star

Much of the sympathy for Hartman’s mother’s sympathy began to evaporate when when she decided to adopt the tactic of anti-gun organizations and attack the millions of members of the National Rifle Association, blaming them for her son’s violent death.

James Love Xavier Hartman Trial
Courtesy Facebook.
James Love Xavier Hartman Trial
Courtesy Facebook.

Obviously, the NRA had nothing to do with Xavier Hartman’s death.

At the trial last week, prosecutor Kerr made a big deal about Love taking a pistol with him to the crash scene. “Who takes a handgun to a traffic crash?” Kerr asked the jury. It seems the anti-gun prosecutor has never lived in a rural area where police may need twenty minutes or more to respond to a call for help.

Prosecutors also pointed to an entry wound in Hartman’s lower leg as evidence of foul play. That particular round had entered behind the mid-line and lodged under the skin near the front of Hartman’s leg. Almost in an effort to conflate the timeline, Kerr alleged that the farmer shot Hartman as the young man ran from the armed farmer.

Love’s legal team obviously disputed that claim, instead saying the wound likely came from a ricochet off the pavement during a dynamic struggle. Besides, they pointed out, a near-point-blank wound from a 9mm would easily penetrate a calf through and through.

The Assistant State’s Attorney’s star witness was Hartman’s buddy, who rode in the pickup truck with Hartman that fateful night. But Colyn Glisan testified that he saw part of the struggle and heard many of the same things the farmer mentioned in his statements to police.

James Love Xavier Hartman Trial
Courtesy Galesburg Register-Mail.

Glisan’s testimony proved a boon for the defense team. He affirmed most of the account Love gave to police. And the defense team undermined and impeached other parts of Glisan’s testimony as unsupported by the evidence.

Prosecutor Kerr also, in earlier proceedings, tried to attack Love based upon Love’s loading his magazines with hollow-point ammunition. Love’s choice in ammo, Kerr claimed, indicated that he was looking for trouble and wanted to kill someone. One wonders if Kerr makes the same argument any time a law-enforcement officer in Knox County has an officer-involved shooting.

The case went to the jury Friday mid-morning. Remarkably, the jury didn’t even drag things out long enough to get a free lunch. In just over an hour, they retired to the jury room, selected a foreman, cast votes on the assortment of charges against Love, returned to the courtroom and gave their decision to the judge.

In other words, the twelve Knox County residents knew a self-defense action when they saw one.

Watch TTAG for an upcoming post on lessons we can all learn from this tragic case.

82 COMMENTS

    • Kerr has some honesty issues. In a previous employment, his county owned laptop got improperly wiped of case files when he left his job. He should be stripped of his law license.

    • Yes, most of the time the system does work in the end, as it did here, but the impact of legal bills, time spent, and damage to the accused’s reputation are another issue. On the one hand, I can see serious pitfalls with making prosecutors who lose cases criminally or civilly responsible, unless the prosecutor broke specific regulations. That would have the effect of making prosecutors less aggressive overall, at the cost some some guilty people walking. On the other hand, it seems that too many prosecutors get away even with breaking regulations. AGs can be voted out, and that should be enough of a deterrent, but it doesn’t seem to be getting the job done. I don’t know what the “correct” trade-off point is, but I personally would be OK with pushing the balance a bit more in favor of protecting innocents from prosecutor misconduct at the expected cost of more guilty people walking free.

      • This is an Assistant State’s Attorney. His boss, John Pepmeyer, is an elected County State’s Attorney.

        Kerr should not have been allowed to do what he did, but Pepmeyer is not running for re-election so there is little political incentive for him to discharge Kerr.

        The next election is in 2020. Knox County voters will get what they deserve.

    • Kerr should also be required to pay back the legal fees and damages to the farmer the he persecuted. He should also forfeit his law license .

  1. What’s the point of having a grand jury if the prosecuting attorney can simply ignore their verdict and file charges anyway? It’s absurd that he even had the power to do that, and because of that (IMHO) the state should be liable for the accused’s legal defense.

    • This situation is worse than that: the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids what this scumbag prosecutor did:

      “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury …” — United States Constitution, Fifth Amendment

      Of course that only applies to the federal government, because the U.S. Constitution (which also includes the amendments in the Bill of Rights) only applies to the federal government, even though the U.S. Constitution says otherwise.

    • Yeah. I would like one our legal experts to explain this. How do you charge Murder 1 without a grand jury indictment?

      • States have their own rules, and grand juries are not used in many states. Nor are they required. The 5th Amendment right to an indictment by a grand jury is not binding on any state. Only in the Federal system is a grand jury required by 5A.

        • To my point above, what’s the point of having a grand jury if the DA is not bound by their decision? Other than to waste taxpayer money.

        • “To my point above, what’s the point of having a grand jury if the DA is not bound by their decision?”

          It seems to (legally ignorant) me that grand juries have been abused in the past, and ignoring them may offer some protection to the accused…

      • In WA at least, the grand jury is a function of the prosecutor’s office. It is a political animal so that a prosecutor can go to the grand jury to avoid prosecution, and then later say “I WAS going to prosecute that scumbag gun owner, but my hands were tied by the grand jury who no-billed it. So vote for me, even though I didn’t do what you wanted!”

        What makes it crazy is that, being a function of the office, a prosecutor can provide (or not) any evidence that they see fit to provide to the grand jury, and the accused gets no say in the matter. The prosecutor 100% controls the story of the case that the grand jury hears. That’s where you get the “ham sandwich” quote.

        So when a prosecutor goes to a grand jury, controls the facts, evidence, and narratives, and STILL doesn’t get the outcome they want, you know the case is weak.

        At no point, though, is the prosecutor bound by the decision of the grand jury – they work for him/her.

      • Article 1 Section 7 Illinois State Constitution

        SECTION 7. INDICTMENT AND PRELIMINARY HEARING
        No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense
        unless on indictment of a grand jury, except in cases in
        which the punishment is by fine or by imprisonment other than
        in the penitentiary, in cases of impeachment, and in cases
        arising in the militia when in actual service in time of war
        or public danger. The General Assembly by law may abolish the
        grand jury or further limit its use.
        No person shall be held to answer for a crime punishable
        by death or by imprisonment in the penitentiary unless either
        the initial charge has been brought by indictment of a grand
        jury or the person has been given a prompt preliminary
        hearing to establish probable cause.
        (Source: Illinois Constitution.)

        • I do not understand how that can be the law in Illinois and this prosecution happened without repercussions to the prosecutor. It is unfathomable to me.

          This is still the worst commenting system on the internet and it seems to be getting worse. No edit button? Really?

      • I hate to say it but also sue the parents of the demon spawn. Their fingers may as well have been on the trigger. They’re also responsible for the knucklehead being there in the first place.

        • “They’re also responsible for the knucklehead being there in the first place.”

          It’s plausible that at the ‘5 seconds of consequential ecstasy’ the parents had no idea he would turn out to be the POS he actually ended up as…

    • Absolutely! He is probably taking his orders from Robert Mueller. Bankrupt the innocent to neuter law abiding citizens so the corruption in government will continue to go forward unchallenged. This asinine jerk needs to be charged with prosecutorial misconduct and disbarred while making him pay Mr. Love’s attorney fees. What a despicable low life of a human being

    • The ASA is likely immune from such an action under state statutes. And he may be immune from a civil rights claim if he is deemed a state level employee (Eleventh Amendment) and not a County employee.

  2. So he took hollow point ammo, so what. He probably grabbed whatever was handy. It was probably a last minute decision to even grab the gun. I would have said “Honey, take the gun, just in case.” (P.S. You were missed at the GSL meeting. We were all looking forward to this update on Mr. Love.) Thanks for posting it.

    • HP ammo is what every LEO uses and recommends. It’s safer and stops threats faster.

      So here is the answer whenever some dingus asks “Why didn’t he just shoot them in the leg?!!!!”

  3. His real crime was looking out for himself, for himself.

    Now that he did it again the persecutors will really be gunning for him.

  4. So, Kerr wanted to make a name for himself.
    He didn’t intend that same to be Douchebag, but that’s the name he made for himself.

    Now, if only the voters are determined to fire anybody in the public arena who hires the proven douchebag in the future…

    • I have a question about how law enforcement works in Illinois.

      Can an Assistant State’s Attorney prosecute anybody he wants to, or does he take orders from the State’s Attorney?

      In other words, did Kerr have the power to maliciously prosecute Love over John Pepmeyer’s objections, or did John Pepmeyer willfully let him do it?

      • It’s Illinois the Democratic paradise, nothing works except government corruption and elected officials stealing money. It will get worse under govenor toilet man.

  5. When I carry and that’s all the time my gun is always loaded with hollow points.if I have shoot I want the attack to end so I can live another day.mine is a 45glock.when an attack comes shoot to kill.warning shots can get you dead

      • “Where’d the edit button go?”

        Please note my user name for this comment.

        A few months now, and who the hell even knows if it will *ever* return…

  6. The legal concept of using deadly force against an unarmed attack is called “Disparity of Force.” Term may vary state to state. As in this case, it may be a stronger, younger attacker, attack on the handicapped, multiple attackers or intrusion into your domicile.

  7. “The farmer drew a Ruger LC9s and tried racking it as Hartman pummeled him” – The split second time lost to rack his weapon almost cost the farmer his life. Lesson to be learned here.

    • Doesn’t sound like he was “looking to kill someone” if he had none in the chamber and fired two warning shots first, he almost ran out of bullets if the attacker or his friend had continued to press the attack beyond the third round.

      • We always talk about the notion that it is NEVER a good idea to fire warning shots. I have to wonder if those two warning shots actually played a pivotal role in helping the jury to determine that Mr. Love went out of his way to avoid shooting the deceased.

        We also always talk about the notion that you should NEVER talk to police without your attorney. It appears that Mr. Love did — just like Zimmerman — and that it likely helped his case — just like Zimmerman.

        I don’t know what to make of all this.

        • Geenral advice doesn’t always apply to specific situations.

          Unfortunately every situation is specific – and personal – when you’re in the middle of it.

          I’m just glad he was acquitted, and can sue for wrongful prosecution. Farmers have a small enough margin as it is without the time and treasure he’s had to spend defending himself against this jerk.

        • I work with attorneys. It is all about the interpretation of your words. A team of lawyers can debate for months about what you meant. They will tear apart every syllable and twist it to mean something different. Point out witnesses and evidence, tell them you feared for you live, and then apologize that you would like a lawyer present for questioning. The police will understand because that’s what they would do.

  8. The left is diligent in their efforts to criminalize any ownership and/or use of a firearm. They ignore the law, they (in this case) ignore the grand jury and they may ignore the jury verdict.

    This DA will be out to get Mr Love. He would be well advised to move to another state.

    The media will continue to demonize Mr Love for killing this “nice kid” for no reason and the mother will probably file a civil case against him.

    • Thankfully, Illinois has iron clad civil immunity attached to that not guilty verdict. The mother would try, and she would bankrupt herself. Ironically, Illinois has very good statutes on the use of lethal force for self-defense. I was as shocked as you can imagine when I studied them when I applied for my CCW.

  9. Love is lucky he managed to chamber a round.

    Would the Kerr go for charges with mandatory sentencing in gangland shootings?

  10. There are probably two takeaways from this:

    #1. If the situation is dangerous enough to fire a “warning” shot, it’s dangerous enough to shoot center mass.

    #2. Load your self-defense gun with cartridges that say “Self Defense” on the box.

      • Brand and line, at least, if not caliber. And if you can find it. Winchester Ranger-T, for instance, is what the locals use (from noting what’s in the trash bins at the range after a training day) but can sometimes be hard to find.

  11. I just spent the weekend in Massad Ayoob’s MAG20 class.

    Highly recommend. IMO Class could be renamed to ‘Surviving the Fight after the Fight.’

    We did talk briefly about this case and a whole bunch of others including Zimmerman.

    quote from Massad…”There really are no winners, only survivors.”

    • Ayoob knows his shit. Never took one of his classes, but him met and shot with him a couple of times. Read a few of his books. Everyone who owns a firearm for self defense should read In the Gravest Extreme.

    • I took Ayoob’s MAG40 class last summer. Four days, half classroom and half shooting. It ends with a closed book, multiple choice exam on the classroom material and a shooting test which, I believe, is intended to match a typical police qualification test. Ayoob keeps the results of both for use as evidence of your training and proficiency if you ever go to court. He has even made arrangements to keep them for several decades after his death since his younger students will most likely outlive him.

  12. Nothing much to add except does farmer Love have a go fund me page?!? Malicious prosecution to the enth degree!

  13. Good for him he managed to survive the attack from the drunk punk and the government. Stay tuned, cause Civil War 2 is coming to a location near you. Just look at the cluster that went down with the Catholic kids and the protester/indian. Keep your powder dry. The evil LC9s will be forbidden.

  14. Henry County, where Kerr was appointed as State’s Attorney but failed to win election, is the home of Springfield Armory, Rock River Arms and Armalite. Knox County is the next county south.

    Plenty of locals are employed by the firearms industry and are pro-2A and pro-self-defense.

    Kerr seems like a genuine idiot.

  15. If it were me, I just would’ve knocked him the fuck out, put him back in the car and set it on fire. Just another dead drunk asshole…

  16. A civil war is coming and it appears the whites are having bullseye’s on their back.when it blows it will be a target rich environment.hone your skills.better to die standing on our feet than grovel at their feet

  17. I wonder if like here in Washington state, where if a a defendant claims self-defense and puts on a self-defense case and prevails in court, being found not guilty or acquitted, the state is on the hook for all costs of the defenses case? That lawyer fees, expert witnesses… everything.
    It happened here in the Gerlach shooting
    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2014/apr/11/gerlach-acquitted-in-shooting-death-of-fleeing/
    where in a subsequent ruling, jurors voted 10-2 that Gerlach’s actions amounted to a justifiable homicide, Which enabled defense attorneys to request that the state pay legal fees estimated at close to $300,000.

    Sure makes sense to have a carry insurance like USCCA, especially if we have HOLLOW POINTS!

    • Agree on insurance. Also CCW Safe and ACLDN. Study any program thoroughly since there may be specific limitations that won’t fit your lifestyle even though the overall program is reputable.

      • I found that if I log in though a proxy, using IE, I can see the edit and delete buttons, but so far nothing I do causes them to function. Firefox doesn’t work, Edge doesn’t work, I tried Chrome before.
        Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

  18. Bravo! Glad to see this innocent man found just that. Too bad that the states attorney is an obvious scumbag trying to railroad this guy with zero evidence. Glad the jury saw through the BS.

  19. Just to let everyone know. The state of Illinois announced this last weekend the legislator would be putting forward a bill to make any firearm deemed an assault weapon illegal. There are a few exceptions for LEO’s and military. As the democrats have a majority in both houses and the governor the chances of it’s passage is a forgone conclusion. It will require all assault style weapons be surrendered to the state no later than 300 days after the legislation is signed into law. Keep Your Powder Dry…

    • Criminal attackers use their physical “assault weapons” (hands and feet) to murder more people than they do with rifles and shotguns. When is the state of Illinois going to ban hands and feet — which are demonstrably more deadly than other “assault weapons”?

  20. Sooo, if we load our magazines with ball-type ammo, that means we are not out “looking to kill someone”? That was one of the most asinine statements I believe I have read in a court case document.. Us law-abiding citizens are never out looking to kill someone, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of us hope to NEVER be put in that situation to begin with.. But if faced with that decision, you are meeting lethal force with…LETHAL FORCE. Would they have us load our mas with rubber bullets, or sand pellets? How about NERF bullets?
    SHEEEEEZ……

    • If you do load with ball, an overzealous prosecutor will claim you don’t care about the danger posed to others by excessive penetration and ricochets.

      Dove was prosecuted because he didn’t let the drunken brat beat him. Had Dove been an MMA fighter, instead of an elderly farmer, who kicked the brat’s ass instead of shooting him, he would have been prosecuted for that. The thing to remember is that anti-gunners are only secondarily anti-gun. Primarily, they are anti-self-defense.

  21. “You might beat the rap but you won’t beat the ride”.
    “The Process is the Punishment”.
    “Tell it to the judge, I don’t care”.

    All sayings indicative of the abusive nature of the American legal
    system. This man was victimized more than once. First by a
    young punk who assaulted him. Next by the box score motivated
    badgemonkeys who aren’t interested in facts, only with arrests.
    And finally by a politically motivated agenda driven DA who had
    access to ALL the evidence but STILL decided he should persecute
    this man. Even though found NOT GUILTY he has still been severely
    punished losing countless hours of sleep, spending time behind bars,
    being subjected to the grueling process of a trial while being described
    by the DA with all sorts of perjorative adjectives and having to fork out
    TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS to defend himself from the criminal
    predations of a DA with political aspirations.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here