In yet another delay in a four-year struggle to find justice for Pravin Varughese, who was found dead in 2014, a Jackson County, Illinois judge has scheduled a hearing Jan. 9, 2019 to determine whether to entirely throw out the case against Gaege Bethune, who in July was convicted by a jury of murdering the Indian American former Southern Illinois University student.
During the brief, 15-minute hearing, Judge Jeffrey Goffinet told courtroom observers that he would not be swayed by the media interest in the case, and would make his decisions solely on what occurs in his courtroom.
Goffinet has taken the case over from Judge Mark Clarke, who presided over Bethune’s first trial in June, at which a jury convicted the young man of murdering Varughese on the night of Feb. 14, 2014. Varughese’s body was found four days later in the woods near Carbondale, Illinois. Investigators initially determined that he had died of hypothermia, but the Varughese family hired a private medical examiner who determined the victim had died of blunt force trauma. (See earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2Kjdsf2)
Bethune was the last person to have seen Varughese before he was found dead. On the day he was due to be sentenced – Sept. 17 – Clarke vacated the jury’s conviction and ordered a fresh trial stating that the jury may have been confused by verbiage in the indictment.
Special prosecutor David Robinson then filed a motion to have the current case against Bethune thrown out. Robinson told India-West he needed to do so procedurally in order to be able to file fresh charges, which could include tampering with the jury. Robinson’s motion is still pending.
Bethune’s attorney Steven Greenberg has filed a motion to have Robinson dismissed from the case, and to dismiss all charges against Bethune, who is currently free. Greenberg also filed a motion stating that Lovely Varughese had tried to influence the grand jury.
Goffinet made no rulings at the Dec. 5 hearing.
Lovely Varughese met with the staff of Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, last month to determine whether a federal agency could investigate the case.