Judge sets new court date to consider motions in Gaege Bethune case

JACKSON COUNTY, IL — The southern Illinois man whose murder conviction in the death of a Southern Illinois University student was overturned was back in court Wednesday as a judge considered pending defense motions.

Gaege Bethune was convicted earlier this year in the 2014 death of Pravin Varughese. His murder conviction was vacated because Judge Mark Clarke said the indictment included wording that could have confused jurors.

Wednesday’s hearing was the same courtroom, but a new judge presided. Judge Jeffrey Goffinet  told people in the courtroom he tries cases in court — not in the media. Defense motions discussed included dismissing the special prosecutor and asking for a speedy trial. Another motion asks for the current case to be dismissed.

Pravin’s mother, Lovely Varughese, and her family continue to make the long trip from Chicago to Jackson County to be in the room when decisions are made regarding the case.

“When we come to Jackson County, we always have to expect the unexpected. That’s the state it’s been,” she said. “We have had some good days here. I’m just holding onto the good times.”

Special prosecutor David Robinson has a pending motion to dismiss the current case, which he said is so the state can have a clear path forward.

“The state has filed that motion because Judge Clarke had made a finding that our indictment was legally infirmed. Now, the state disagrees with that legal determination, but we absolutely accept it. Before, to move on to the next step — whatever that is — those charges have to be dismissed,” said Robinson.

Defense attorney Steve Greenberg was also hoping the case would be dismissed. He also submitted the motion to terminate Robinson, because Greenberg said he doesn’t believe this is a murder case

“We think the case has run its course. There was a trial. We don’t believe this is a murder case. We’ve explained that in court several times in our filings. There is nothing further to investigate then if it’s not a murder case, because the statute of limitations has run out,” said Greenberg.

Varughese said no matter what happens she still has peace.

“We live with the peace knowing Pravin is resting in peace, that he got the justice he needed. So, whatever happens now is beyond us. It’s the way the system works,” said Varughese.

They will be back in court Jan. 9 to continue discussing the pending motions.

There has been no dismissal of any charges. Bethune remains out of jail on bond, and he must continue to submit to drug testing.