Throughout his three-day trial, Jeffrey Weinhaus’ defense attorneys attempted to portray him as a victim of overzealous policing.
The jury didn’t see it that way.
On Thursday, Weinhaus, an anti-government blogger also known as “The Bulletinman,” was found guilty of one count each of assault on a law enforcement officer and armed criminal action in Franklin County Circuit Court. He also was found guilty of possession of morphine and marijuana.
The jury recommended a total of 63 years on the four charges.
The jury returned not guilty verdicts on two other counts of armed criminal action and assault on a law enforcement officer.
Additional charges of tampering with a judicial official and resisting arrest were dismissed Wednesday evening by Judge Keith Sutherland.
The jury returned verdicts after evidence was presented that Weinhaus, 47, had attempted to draw a gun on Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Henry J. Folsom on Sept. 11, 2012, during a confrontation at an MFA gas station on Highway K in St. Clair.
Folsom and another trooper, Cpl. Scott Mertens, shot Weinhaus during the incident, hitting him twice in the chest once in the head and once in the neck, critically injuring him.
A large contingent of law enforcement officers and Weinhaus supporters were in court Thursday to hear the verdicts.
Weinhaus had a long history of publishing controversial content criticizing government and law enforcement officials in Jefferson and several other counties. He had published several YouTube videos, one of which he makes alleged threats to Judge Kelly Parker and other officials in Crawford County, where Weinhaus was briefly a candidate for coroner in 2012.
In the video, Weinhaus gives unnamed lawyers, judges and police officers until Sept. 17, 2012, to “stand down” and “just quit.”
Judge Parker later called the highway patrol and asked them for an investigation, Folsom testified.
Folsom and Mertens went to speak with Weinhaus and when he opened the door, they smelled marijuana. They obtained a warrant and searched the residence, seizing computers, a small amount of marijuana and some pills found to contain morphine.
Authorities with the highway patrol later told Folsom to arrest Weinhaus and hold him until Sept. 17, Folsom testified at the trial.
The two troopers created a “ruse,” Folsom said, telling Weinhaus they were going to return his computers to get Weinhaus to meet them at the MFA gas station so they could serve the arrest warrant. That’s when the confrontation that resulted in the shooting occurred.
Reactions to Verdict
Prosecuting attorney Robert Parks said he was pleased with the verdict, despite the two findings of not guilty and the two charges that were dismissed.
“Jeff Weinhaus has no remorse, and he doesn’t believe, in my mind, that he did anything wrong,” he said. “I’m grateful for the 30-year sentences and very happy (the jury) followed my recommendations.”
Parks said the recommended sentences send a message to everyone that Franklin County will protect its law enforcement.
Defense attorney Hugh Eastwood and co-counsel Chris Combs said they were disappointed with the verdict, but they were pleased with the two not-guilty findings. Eastwood said it also was no small victory to get two of the charges dropped mid-trial.
“It’s pretty rare for a judge to do that,” Eastwood said. “For a judge to drop a charge that relates to threatening another judge, that says a lot for Judge (Keith) Sutherland. We thought he was fair.”
Eastwood said a motion for a retrial would be filed before the sentencing hearing Nov. 25.
The jury heard arguments and testimony from both the state and the defense during the penalty phase of the trial.
Parks called Folsom to the stand one last time to testify how the shooting had impacted his life.
“I bear no ill feelings for Mr. Weinhaus, his family and his friends,” Folsom said. “But I, myself, have been changed forever. My wife is four months pregnant and stressed really bad. My family life is devastated because of this.”
Folsom told the jury he has been harassed by Weinhaus supporters since the incident, has not worked, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
At one point in Folsom’s testimony, Weinhaus muttered, “This is crap.”
“Maybe it is crap, Jeff,” Folsom fired back from the stand, “But you did this.”
Parks said he had asked Mertens to take the stand, but Mertens declined because he was too emotional after testifying earlier in the trial.
Judy Kropf, who was married to Weinhaus nearly five years but divorced him in May, told the jury Weinhaus was never physically violent with her, but had been verbally abusive toward her at times.
Nevertheless, Kropf said Weinhaus was, in her opinion, a “good and decent” person and she still cared about him and supported him.
“What happened was not in character for Jeff Weinhaus,” she said.
Parks told the jury that he felt Weinhaus was a danger to society.
“He has no respect for the law and for no one but himself,” Parks said. “He would have shot those two officers down, all because he has no respect for the law. He does not deserve to be in our society. He needs to be locked up.”
Hugh Eastwood, Weinhaus’ attorney, said Weinhaus has been blogging and writing about government officials for years and although his speech is at times controversial and extreme, Weinhaus never hurt anyone.
“The violence was out of character,” he said.
Eastwood claimed Weinhaus is not the same man he was before the shooting.
“The man you see here is not the man who went to the gas station,” he said to the jury. “He doesn’t impose a current threat. I ask for leniency because extreme punishment does not send a message or achieve anything or heal anything.”
Weinhaus, who looked frail and a lot thinner than he did just one year ago, remained calm during most of the three-day trial, but became agitated after the verdict was read.
“You happy Bob? Was justice served?” he asked Parks from his seat at the defense table.
As the trial concluded, he picked up his Bible and was escorted out of the courtroom.
“Hope you sleep well tonight, Bob,” he told Parks. “God bless you. I’ll be praying for you.”