Monday, December 18, 2017
Joyce Gibbs booking photo.

Made up story lands one in prison

Gibbs gets two year sentence

By Mike Kolb

“This whole event is reprehensible,” those were the words of Judge James R. Williamson Wednesday afternoon at the sentencing hearing of Joyce Gibbs.

On Oct. 7, 2013, Joyce Gibbs called 911 and claimed to have been taken at gunpoint from a gas station in Herrin, then she claimed she was taken to Ferne Clyffe and sexually assaulted. She then told the same story to the state trooper that responded to her call.

Days later, after the investigation found video surveillance that she was not taken at gunpoint Gibbs withdrew her statement and later plead guilty to a Class 4 felony of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. However, the damage to the Goreville community had already been done.

The Goreville School was locked down the evening of Oct. 7, fearing that an armed assailant was in the area. School functions and practices were canceled. Citizens were double checking locked doors, some fearing for their safety. Illinois State Police, Goreville Police Department and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department were all involved in the investigation. A K-9 was brought in to attempt to track the fictitious gunman.

Taxpayer dollars and countless hours of police resources were wasted looking for a suspect that didn’t exist. Judge Williamson took all of those factors into account during the sentencing hearing.

Johnson County State’s Attorney Tambra Cain brought forth witnesses to substantiate the harm inflicted on the Village of Goreville. She also called forth an Illinois State Police investigating officer on the case to establish a possible motive for Gibbs’ actions.

It appears, according to the evidence uncovered regarding events prior to Oct. 7, 2013, that theft might have been the reason behind it all. Gibbs had been working for an insurance company selling annuities, and she sold an annuity to an elderly gentleman who had difficulty seeing.

Originally the gentleman had purchased a $5,500 cashier’s check from the bank, but mistakenly the check made payable to himself. In order to pay for his purchased annuity he signed a check and asked Gibbs to fill out the information. It appears that she filled out the information, making the check payable to herself. She then took that check to the elderly gentleman’s bank and had it turned into a cashier’s check made payable to herself.

Gibbs took the cashier’s check to her own bank. She put $1,900 on a Walmart debit card, $1,100 was used to make her car payment and the rest went into her bank account. A few days later her work then received a call from the gentleman asking about his annuity. The business approached Gibbs asking her for the check. That afternoon Gibbs reported the supposed abduction.

When police arrived at the Ferne Clyffe scene, Gibbs was asked if she had anything of value in her car. She told the officer she had a $5,500 cashier’s check in it. She was referring to the cashier’s check that had already been cashed by herself.

During the investigation a rape kit was used at a hospital where she was treated for injuries she received during the supposed sexual assault. The injuries included bruising on her hip and thigh and a three inch contusion on the back of her head. The state’s attorney argued that her wounds could have easily been self-inflicted as part of Gibbs’ claim to have been abducted and sexually assaulted.

Then the state’s attorney revealed that Gibbs had previously been a victim’s advocate in Pope County. Gibbs had counseled victims of real sexual assaults and had intimate knowledge of how those crimes were perpetrated. This, the state argued, was how she built a convincing story that, on the surface, sounded real enough to cause panic in an entire community.

After the witnesses each answered their questions and were released from the stand the attorneys for each side gave their summation. Cain requested a sentence of 1 to 2 years imprisonment in an Illinois Department of Correction facility. The defense argued that there was evidence that a sexual assault took place, that Gibbs was not charged with theft, and that her falsified police report did not leave a lasting impact on the community. The defense requested time served of six days and probation.

Joyce Gibbs was then given the chance to speak for herself. “I apologize to the way this all took place. I would never disrespect the judicial system and law enforcement. I was assaulted. There was a threat to my family and I was afraid for myself and my granddaughters. I’m back on my feet, I’m working full-time. If I’m incarcerated I’ll lose my job and be unable to pay back to the community.”

Judge Williamson then spoke before handing out the sentence. “I’ve considered the evidence and pre-sentence report. I’ve considered the financial impact of incarceration.” Williamson said that he considered the cost of imprisoning Gibbs as well as the information given in the evidence and the argument regarding factors of mitigation.

Williamson who has been a judge for 37 years and previously served as a state’s attorney has seen a number of cases. “Argument could be made that the defendant’s conduct caused serious harm,” he said. He referred to the many hours of the investigating officers and the tax dollars spent looking for a suspect who didn’t exist. “I take it arguably that the treasury of the state of Illinois was defrauded.”

“This type of crime is very serious, because of all the travail this has caused. We have people in the community upset. I think a sentence of probation deprecates the seriousness of this offense.”

Then Judge Williamson handed down the sentence of two years with day for day credit in an Illinois Department of Corrections facility, one year of mandatory supervised release. He ordered Gibbs to pay court costs and gave her six days credit for time served. Gibbs’ bond was revoked and she was immediately taken into custody.

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