Nic Cueter ’12 heard an unseemly noise from his back-corner cubicle on Seymour Library’s third floor on Sept. 9, 2011. One desk over, he saw a heavyset man in a blue hat and cut-off jeans — too old to be a student.
“I looked over a couple times and we kept making eye contact. You can tell when someone’s looking at you,” he said.
Cueter, now a graduate student at Georgetown University, approached the man and saw that he was masturbating.
“So I call him out like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’” Cueter said.
Cueter called Campus Safety, but the man left before they arrived. Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf told him to call if he saw the man again.
Four days later, the man was back at the same desk.
Anthony Main, 41, of Galesburg, has a history of indecent exposure. Galesburg police have arrested him at least three times for masturbating in public places. None of those arrests, however, resulted in a conviction.
Main belongs to Knox’s 17-person banned list, which has added 10 names since June 2012.
But like Main, less than half of those people are ever convicted of crimes related to their ban. The list, which dates back to 2007, contains incidents of threats, harassment and unwanted sexual behavior.
And as the number of banned subjects has increased, the time between incidents has narrowed, with some bans even occurring on the same day.
In a two-day span last October, for example, Campus Safety banned three people for threats and unwanted sexual behavior. Of those cases, only one — Steven Medina, 25, of Galesburg — resulted in a conviction.
Knox notifies people of their ban from campus with a letter also sent to the Galesburg Police Department and Knox County State’s Attorney’s Office. If that person returns to campus, police can arrest them for criminal trespassing.
“When we decide to ban somebody, we make a determination independent of the courts or police and say, basically, ‘Because of your conduct, you’re not welcome back on campus,’” Schlaf said.
But in some cases, the letter is not enough to deter banned people from coming back.
Johnny Mixon, 52, of Galesburg, has returned to Knox at least three times since his 2009 ban for harassment. He was first arrested at Knox for disorderly conduct after he began screaming at students who would not sell him drugs.
Mixon, the only sex offender on Knox’s banned list, returned most recently last September.
When Campus Safety officers confronted him, he allegedly told them, “Ah yeah, I was just passing through. Just gonna go now.” Upon arrest, officers noted that he was carrying a “sealed package of Polish sausage” without a bag or receipt, according to police records.
Mixon is among the 10 “unwanted subjects” who have appeared this year in the Campus Safety Log. That number is up from just one last year, though cases in the past were sometimes categorized differently.
In 2007, for example, Campus Safety reported a “suspicious incident” in which a Galesburg man was allegedly offering free foot massages to female students.
Still, Schlaf concedes that “unwanted subjects” could be on the rise.
“People are reporting things more often, and we’re probably more tightly documenting those cases,” Schlaf said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if there are more cases of unwanted subjects.”
And from there, Schlaf trusts that off-campus authorities will pursue a conviction when necessary.
“We’re sure that’s their goal, but that’s not going to stop us from engaging the police when we have to, and it’s certainly not going to stop us from doing what we have to do,” he said.
In his experience, most of those people come to campus because of Knox’s centralized location in Galesburg.
“A lot of times, these are people you’d see on Main Street. They’re not coming to Knox for any particular reason,” he said.
Arrests and subsequent charges often depend on quick, detailed reports from victims, Schlaf said.
When police are called, they work with Campus Safety and the victim to determine a suspect and proceed with an arrest.
“I can’t think of a situation where an [arrested] person doesn’t get charged. If we have reliable witnesses and solid evidence, and everything adds up, we’re going to go forward with the case,” Galesburg Police Chief Dave Christensen said.
Last September, junior Haley Schutt was walking in the quads when a man grabbed her and began to breathe heavily in her ear. She reported the incident to Campus Safety and identified the man from a photo lineup. Police later arrested the man, Medina, and charged him with battery.
“A lot of people are comfortable with calling in to [Campus Safety], and that’s a big step for the college,” Schutt said. “I think Campus Safety has a stigma that they’re out to get you, and they’re not. It’s really important for the students to understand that they’re just trying to do their job.”
When police make an arrest, they must verify that they have enough evidence before charges are filed. However, in many cases, reports lack enough physical evidence or immediate suspects.
This ultimately determines whether charges can be pressed, according to Knox County Assistant State’s Attorney David Hansen.
“We almost always file charges, but we do need proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
In some instances, a subject’s more recent or more serious offense can take precedence.
Hansen, who has practiced in Knox County since 2011, estimated that he has filed charges for all but two cases that have come across his desk.
“We take this very seriously. We have to keep the community safe. I have two small children, and I have to keep them safe,” Hansen said.
Anthony Main was at a public library computer in Bettendorf, Iowa on a Thursday morning in June 2012.
But this time, he was next to a 14-year-old boy.
Main began touching himself and reached over to grab the boy, who fled to the library coffee shop where a staff member called the police. Main, who had been convicted twice before for window peeping, had skipped bail for his Knox offense and had a $2,000 warrant out for his arrest.
In Iowa, he was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison and 10 years probation. Main still faces the original charges in Knox County, where he will be sentenced to a minimum of four more years in prison if convicted.
As Nic Cueter put it: “You motherf***er, not again.”
Editor’s note: Main will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.