Peoria Man’s Sexual Assault Conviction Reversed

An appellate court has overturned the conviction of a Peoria man accused of raping a toddler, and slammed Peoria County prosecutors for sending him to prison.

Steven Cole was convicted in 2012 for the sexual assault of a 20-month-old child. The appellate court this week overturned that conviction, saying Cole was denied a fair trial by the State’s improper comments in its closing argument, among other issues.

Cole’s wife was also convicted on a misdemeanor charge of attempted obstruction of justice.

In the ruling, one judge was harsh towards the prosecutors and judge who sent Cole to prison. Daniel Schmidt wrote he was “baffled” as to why Cole was even accused of the crime, saying there was little to no substantial evidence against him.

“Steven and Janet Cole, through no fault of their own, have become characters in an American horror story that even Stephen King could not have written,” Schmidt wrote.

Schmidt added he had never seen anything like Cole’s case in more than a decade on the appellate court.

“I hope I never do again,” he wrote.

The full Third District Appellate Court ruling can be read here.

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