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         August 16, 2010        

Bill Vandergraph is unfit to stand trial

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The 72-year-old Reverend Bill Vandergraph, ex-President of Friends of the Cross, will not be put on trial for allegedly molesting a four-year-old girl because he is no longer mentally fit to assist in his own defense.  A mental fitness exam will be conducted by the Defense during the next month, and the Prosecution may conduct their own separate evaluation, but Bill's dramatic and extreme mental deterioration was obvious to everybody, such as myself, who saw him at his first court hearing, this past Friday, in the Union County Courthouse.

This is one picture of Rev. Bill Vandergraph, leaving court after his first hearing on Friday,
that appeared in a story by The Southern entitled Vandergraph faces more charges.
Bill is escorted on his left and right by two sons.  His older brother is behind him.
Click on the photo for a larger image.

The first question that everybody who doesn't have first-hand knowledge of the situation wants to know is:  Is this a convenient act?  My answer is:  No.  Dementia (senility) has clearly caused substantial damage to Bill's mind.  When I mentioned that fact after the court hearing on Friday, by phone, to two different prominent members of the Southern Illinois community who are good friends of mine, who know Bill and who were not at the court hearing as I was, they both said that Bill has been "losing it" for about two years, so the deterioration did not conveniently start only after the charges were laid.

There also surely is an element of severe depression involved, here.  How much of Bill's problem is depression and how much is senility doesn't matter.  The combination has left Bill as essentially nursing home material -- somebody who is no longer the person whom he was during the functional part of his adult life.

After the court hearing, in the lobby of the courthouse, I asked both Bill's attorney, Allen James, and also the Union County State's Attorney, Tyler James, what would happen regarding Bill, if and when he is found unfit to stand trial.  Will that merely be a get-out-of-jail-free card, where the case against Bill is dropped and he can go back to living his life any way he wants?

The answer was:  No.  Bill could be found unfit to stand trial "at this time."  However, that doesn't end the case.  There would be subsequent evaluations made periodically, such as after three months, six months and a year.  If Bill is still unfit to stand trial after a year, they would go back to court to see what to do, then, but that doesn't mean Bill is free to do anything that he wants.  Bill still is subject to the terms of the bond agreement, which is that he can only leave home for medical and legal process reasons.  He is still prohibited from having any contact with any person under the age of 18.

Bill's two adopted children, who are 13 and 14, told the court through their attorney that they wanted to go home so that they can return to their own school and be with their friends.  After extended debate, the judge permitted the children to return home, but another adult is required to be in the house at all times that the children are there.  I say that the children will be safe, because they are both physically big enough to take care of themselves and Bill is far too feeble to do anything of the sort.

Photos of Allen James (left) and State's Attorney Tyler Edmonds in the lobby of
the Union County Courthouse that appeared in a story by The Southern entitled
Vandergraph faces more charges.  Click on either photo for a larger image.

Allen and Tyler were speaking with five reporters after the first court hearing for Bill Vandergraph on Friday.
The other reporters were from the Democrat Gazette, WPSD Channel 6 NBC-TV in Paducah, KY,
WSIL Channel 3 ABC-TV in Carterville, Illinois, and me representing Rob Sherman News.
The story by Channel 6 is entitled Bill Vandergraph's attorney says he's not fit for trial.
The story by Channel 3 is entitled Former Cross President Faces New Charges.

Does that mean that Bill has "gotten away with it?"  I say that the answer is:  No.  What has happened to Bill is far worse than a conviction or a prison sentence.  Bill has lost his mind, and once that happens, your life is over.  It's not reversible.  Normal Bill is gone forever.  Bill will never be able to go back to the life he once had, ever, so Bill hasn't "gotten away with" anything.

The Bill that people previously knew doesn't exist anymore.  Bill has lost most of his mental facilities.  He is a mental cripple, in addition to essentially being a physical cripple, in that he needs assistance just to walk, not to mention his problem with diabetes.  He's not a walking zombie, but there is little left of the person who was Bill.

Bill recognized me in court.  We exchanged greetings.  He told his family that I'm his friend, and he's right.  He always treated me well, even though we disagreed on whether the $20,000 grant to Friends of the Cross should be returned to the State.

I don't turn my back on a friend, even when a friend may have made a really big mistake.  That's when a friend needs my loyalty the most.  When nobody else will be your friend, Bill, when everybody else other than your family shuns you, I'll still be your friend.

There is nothing left for the State's Attorney to prosecute, because there no longer is a Bill Vandergraph.  The Bill that remains is just a feeble old man who is waiting to die and who has very little left of his personality.  The only good news for Bill is that he has a magnificent wife and children who have rallied to help him and love him in his time of great need.  We should all have a family like Bill Vandergraph has.

So, what does this say about clergy abuse and clergy pedophilia?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  This is not about a member of the clergy taking advantage of a child on the sneak, and I'm the last guy in the world who would give a member of the clergy the benefit of the doubt in a situation like this.  This is about an old man whose alleged unfortunate conduct with a young child was a result of his brain becoming corrupted with disease that left him incapable of making proper decisions.  The disease will only get worse and will never get better.

Society does not have to worry about any other child being a victim of Bill because Bill will be under constant, uninterrupted supervision from his loving extensive family for the rest of his life.  He will never be left alone, again.  He will be constantly watched, every waking moment.  That's no fun.

I forgive Bill for what he allegedly did, because it wasn't Bill Vandergraph who did it.  It was a senile old man who used to Bill, but whose mind was so diseased with dementia that it left Bill too confused to know that what he allegedly did was wrong.

I encourage you to forgive Bill, too.  Remember Bill for the many things that he did right during his life, such as providing a home to many adopted and foster children whom the rest of the world had turned their backs on.  If it wasn't for Bill and his wonderful wife, a lot of kids would not have had a real home and a good home to live in.

It's not his fault.  I forgive you, Bill.

Previous Rob Sherman News stories on this subject matter:

Thursday, August 12:  Sherman sues Friends of the Cross to force return of unconstitutional grant

Friday, August 6:  Supplemental document file also proves fraud committed by Friends of the Cross

Thursday, August 5:  Contract proves fraud committed repeatedly by Friends of the Cross

Wednesday, August 4:  Lisa Madigan asked to investigate contract fraud by Friends of the Cross

Sunday, July 18:  Don't tear down the Vandergraph Cross of Shame

Saturday, July 17:  Friends of the Cross leader arrested for raping four-year-old girl!

Monday, July 5:  New $52 million Grant scandal at the Illinois General Assembly and DCEO

Tuesday, June 29:  Sherman meets Senate sponsor of $20,000 grant to Bald Knob Cross

Wednesday, June 16:  Day of Reckoning rapidly approaching for Friends of the Cross to return the $20,000

Thursday, June 3:  Pictures from meeting with Quinn, presentation to Friends of the Cross and from Stanley Cup Playoff game

Wed., June 2:  Sherman meets with Friends of the Cross and with Governor Quinn to discuss Bald Knob Cross controversy

Saturday, May 22:  Sherman to tell Friends of the Cross: Return unconstitutional $20,000 State grant

Tuesday, May 4:  Illinois donates $20,000 to restore 111-foot-high Christian cross on private land

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