Jury finds former motorcycle club leader guilty of armed robbery in dispute with rival club

Joseph Teel
Posted: Mar. 15, 2013 9:16 pm Updated: Mar. 30, 2013 1:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

One of four members of a Liberty-based motorcycle club charged in an armed robbery of a rival motorcycle group in May was found guilty on three counts Friday by an Adams County jury.

Joseph E. Teel Jr., 39, of Barry, faces up to 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections after being found guilty of armed robbery. He also was found guilty on charges of aggravated robbery and robbery. He will be sentenced May 29 by Judge Mark Drummond.

The jury deliberated for just under three hours to close out the four-day trial.

Teel was part of a group that stole vests from two members of the Tunnel Rats at the corner of 12th and Hampshire about 2 p.m. May 20.

Teel was president of the Midwest Percenters motorcycle club when he and three other members of the club were arrested in the early morning of May 21. Also arrested were Timothy E. Jackson, 55, of Roodhouse, Zane E. Liggett, 55, of Camp Point, and Gerald R. Utterback, 44, of Barry.

Joe Cowman, 25, of LaBelle, Mo., and Michael Baehr, 33, of Quincy, each testified that they were surrounded by members of the Midwest Percenters while they were traveling from the Tunnel Rats clubhouse in the 2900 block of Vermont to Baehr's residence on the southwest side of Quincy. Cowman and Baehr said they rode past a motorcycle rally at Kelly's that afternoon and traveled west before turning left at 12th Street. They said they saw a member of the Midwest Percenters who was traveling east at a stoplight at 12th and Broadway.

The pair made the left-hand turn onto 12th Street and realized they were being followed. Cowman said the pair "gunned it" through a yellow light at 12th and Vermont before being stopped by a light at 12th and Hampshire. That's when members of the Percenters surrounded them, they said.

"There have been issues with members of their club and ours," Cowman said during his testimony. "I knew it might not end well."

Cowman said Jackson blocked his bike from the front and Utterback blocked him from the back. He said Liggett blocked the front of Baehr's bike and Teel blocked Baehr from the back.

Cowman said Jackson demanded that Cowman and Baehr give up their vests, also known as "cuts."

According to Cowman, Jackson said: "This isn't a (expletive) game. We'll (expletive) kill you. Give us your (expletive) cuts."

Cowman said he turned to his right and saw Teel pointing what he believed was a gun at Baehr's head. Cowman said he heard Teel yell, "Take them off, or I'll blow your (expletive) head off."

Cowman's wife, Elizabeth, who was riding on the back of his motorcycle, said she also saw Teel with a gun.

In an interview with Quincy police officer Craig Hufford, Teel denied having a gun. He told Hufford that he was on probation and didn't even carry a pocketknife.

Teel did not take the stand. His defense attorney, Riff Scholz, related the incident to "boys with toys playing capture the flag."

Scholz said Cowman "flipped off" members of the Percenters who were at the rally at Kelly's. That gesture led to the incident, Scholz said. Cowman denied doing anything other than waving to the people at the rally.

Scholz contended that the stories of the Cowmans and Baehr wouldn't match up. He said Teel was late to arrive at the scene at 12th and Hampshire because his motorcycle had mechanical problems. Hufford said Teel didn't say anything about his motorcycle malfunctioning when he interviewed Teel on the night of the incident.

No gun was recovered. The vests and items inside the vests were never recovered, either. Teel told Hufford that he could get the vests back if the charges were dropped.

The prosecution called seven witnesses and introduced nearly 50 items into evidence. Among the items in evidence were still shots taken from a surveillance camera at the Bank of Quincy, which is at 12th and Broadway. The photos showed bikers driving past the bank near the time of the incident, but did not show the incident.

State's Attorney Jon Barnard rested the state's case just before lunch Friday.

"I'm satisfied for the victims," Barnard said. "That is what means the most to me."

Teel had been free since posting $5,000 bond May 24. After the verdicts were read, Drummond revoked Teel's bond and remanded him into custody. Teel will be lodged in the Adams County Jail until his sentencing. Jackson and Utterback were in court when the verdict was read.

Liggett, Jackson and Utterback all will be tried at the same time. Their case was originally on the March jury docket. They are next due in court March 25.