MURPHYSBORO — William Fenton, the former Ava police officer who was indicted in December on multiple criminal sexual offenses, pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday during his formal arraignment in Jackson County Court.
Fenton, 47, of Murphysboro, was indicted in December on two counts of criminal sexual assault and three counts of criminal sexual abuse. According to the bill of indictment, Fenton is accused of digital penetration and other sexual acts with a female under the age of 18 but older than 13 years old. The incident allegedly occurred in July 2017.
According to a representative with the Jackson County State’s Attorney’s Office, Fenton waived a formal reading of the charges and has retained Michael Wepsiec as legal counsel.
Fenton is scheduled for a case management conference at 1:30 p.m. on April 23 before Judge Ralph Bloodworth. While this is a distant date for most criminal cases, the representative said it was merely a matter of scheduling, plus Fenton is not incarcerated.
“Incarcerated defendants, due to their implicit speedy trial rights, are set before the nonincarcerated defendants,” the representative said.
In accordance with the state training board rules, Curt Ehlers, police commissioner for Ava, said Fenton’s employment as a police officer with the city was terminated on Dec. 21, the evening of his arrest.
According to a December news release from the State’s Attorney’s Office, if found guilty, Fenton could face 22 years of imprisonment with a mandatory supervised release period of two years to natural life.
The release states the investigation is being pursued by the Illinois State Police. Assistant state’s attorney Rebecca Blomer and state’s attorney Michael C. Carr are handling the prosecution.