SYCAMORE – 2:03 p.m. update: Shawn Thrower has been found guilty of two counts of battery. A sentence hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 13. This story will be updated.
During her Thursday morning testimony sitting across the room from her former boss, Shawn Thrower, the 15-year-old girl who says Thrower bit her neck and touched her inappropriately at work said she didn’t tell her coworkers initially because “he is a well known person in our town and I would think people wouldn’t believe me.”
The victim and her mother, of Sycamore, who the Daily Chronicle will not be identifying in any way due to the nature of the case involving a minor, both testified in front of DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Pedersen in courtroom 210 at the DeKalb County courthouse, where Thrower’s bench trial is in recess as of noon.
Thrower, 61, owns Shawn’s Coffee Shop and Princess Alex Ice Cream in Sycamore and is charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery after police say he bit the girl on her neck, picked her up and smacked her buttocks during a shift at the cafe, according to DeKalb County Court records. If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail, and fines up to $2,500.
Thrower pleaded not guilty to the charges on March 9.
“There was a quick moment of pause, and we laughed a little bit and the next thing I knew, I was being held against the table,” the teen recounted Thursday.
The trial is expected to reconvene at 12:45 p.m., at which time Thrower’s lawyer, Liam Dixon, expects to bring forward two additional witnesses.
The mother of the victim spoke publicly to Daily Chronicle last month, speaking out in the hope that her daughter’s story will empower others to use their voice.
The courtroom was outfitted with plastic barriers between judges, lawyers and their clients, with courtroom seating limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all participants worse masks.
Outside the courthouse Thursday morning, protesters gathered, and one held a sign that said “I like my coffee served with justice.”
In an interview with the Daily Chronicle in August, Thrower said, “There’s two sides to every story.” He said the trial would bring more details to light.
Inside the courtroom
The 15-year-old’s mother testified first Thursday, detailing her account of the evening of Feb. 27, 2020, how her daughter told her what happened to her during her closing shift at the coffee shop that evening, and how she texted her mother to come pick her up after work.
They went directly to the Sycamore Police Department to report Thrower after the teen showed her mother what she says were bite marks on her neck from an incident about an hour earlier.
“She was pale, shaking, having a hard time putting a sentence together,” the mother told the courtroom. She said her daughter had a black North Face jacket on that brisk February evening, zipped all the way up her neck hiding what she said were visible marks her daughter said were made by Thrower.
The teen had just started working at Shawn’s Cafe, her first job. Her mother said she and her daughter considered Thrower a family friend, and had been patronizing his shop for years now, with weekly stops with her daughter for buy-one-get-one smoothies and then later, bagels. The teen was employed there for about a month and a half before the incident.
Two Sycamore police detectives also testified Thursday morning: Det. Sgt. Jeff Wig and Det. Sgt. John Keacher. Wig was one of the initial points of contact of the mother and teen when they came to report a battery Feb. 27. Wig took photos of the teen’s neck where marks could be seen, and Keacher interviewed the teen at the station, which was recorded via video and audio.
The following day, the detectives made their way to Shawn’s Coffee Shop, 204 Somonauk St., blocks from the police department to get his statement.
Though Thrower wasn’t initially there, Keacher spoke with him on the phone and Thrower said he’d meet them in 10 minutes at his coffee shop.
“He said ‘I know why you’re here’”, said Wig, recalling his conversation with Thrower Feb. 28. “He indicated that what [the victim] had said was the truth and didn’t want to discredit her because she’s a good kid.”
Wig, who said he knows Thrower, said Thrower told police he “took a chunk out of her shoulder” and in reference to police involvement said Thrower was “entirely cooperative throughout the whole thing.”
Thrower’s interview at the coffee shop with Wig and Keacher was not recorded, confirmed both officers Thursday, and when asked specifically by Dixon whether either had offered to have Thrower come to the police station to have him reiterate his statement for the record to be recorded, both said they did not make that offer.
Detailing the incident
DeKalb County court records paint a picture of Thrower’s behavior, which the 15-year-old girl told police made her uncomfortable. She also said she felt he was showing her favoritism. Court records from Sycamore police interviews with the victim allege Thrower would frequently pick the girl up while hugging her, and text her, calling her “queen,” “baby” and “his girl.”
The day of the incident, Feb. 27, the girl snuck up on Thrower from behind a refrigerator to scare him, and then he pinned her against one of the mixer tables and started biting her neck while she attempted to push him away. When she wiggled away, Thrower grabbed her and smacked her across the buttocks multiple times, the teen told police.
During one of her closing shifts, around 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 27, the teen popped out from behind a refrigerator to startle Thrower, records show, and “they laughed a little bit.” The teen told police Thrower then picked her up by the waist, pinned her against one of the mixer tables and started biting her neck while she attempted to push him away.
When she wiggled away, Thrower grabbed her and smacked her across the buttocks multiple times, the teen told police. Thrower left right after the incident, and when the teen’s shift was done, she went home and told her mother. While she was still at work, the girl took photos of the bite marks on her neck.
During her testimony Thursday, the teen’s mother said she and her daughter and the teen’s father helped craft a text message which the mom sent from her daughter’s phone the next day stating, “Hey I am not so good. Yesterday at work when you picked me up and got my neck you left these marks and my mom asked me about them also when you grabbed my butt I was really uncomfortable I’m not sure I want to come in to work again tomorrow,” records show.
Thrower then left a voicemail responding, “Hey can you have your mom call me? Gosh I’m really sorry about yesterday. Man you scared the [expletive] out of me, um yeah, I just picked you up and kind of bit you, but gosh I don’t want to go any further than that I’m really sorry about that, but um have your mom give me a call so I can talk to her about it to straighten all this up. Thanks sweetie, I’ll talk to you later, bye.”
He then told police, “I grabbed somewhere I shouldn’t have,” records show.
Thrower’s charges and court proceedings have led to strong reactions from the public, including several protests held by local activists standing up for Thrower’s alleged victim. Others have expressed strong support of Thrower, patronizing his businesses during the protests and condemning those who spoke out against him.
• This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
• Daily Chronicle breaking news reporter Katie Finlon contributed to this report.
Source: The Daily Chronicle