August 20, 2015

Utica woman found fit to stand trial for arson

Bond reduction hearing Monday

Tom Collins

OTTAWA – The psychiatrist who had pronounced accused arsonist Sandra Pode unfit tostand trial now thinks the Utica woman has recovered.

Defense attorney David Camic said Wednesday that Pode’s second visit to Dr. James Corcoran of Downers Grove resulted in a determination that she is now fit to stand trial.

It also clears the way for Judge James A. Lanuti to set a new trial date as early as Monday.

Camic said he plans to ask for a reduction in Pode’s $1 million bond at Monday’s hearing.

Pode, 34, of 300 Woodland Court could face 6-30 years in prison if convicted of aggravated arson, a Class X felony, for allegedly setting fire to her Utica home on Feb.1.

Pode’s husband and their seven children – she has since given birth in custody to an eighth child – were home at the time the fire started, though no one was seriously hurt.

Pode’s case has been continued repeatedly because of her mental health and because she changed lawyers twice.

Her first attorney, Joe Navarro of Ottawa, immediately called her mental health into question and persuaded the court to have her examined for fitness.

Though the psychiatric reports were sealed, it was later revealed in open court that Corcoran ruled that Pode was not fit, while an expert for the prosecution, Dr. Anthony Caterine of Peoria, decided she was fit.

Lanuti planned to settle the issue at a June 17 fitness hearing, but Pode complicated the court’s schedule by severing ties with Navarro on May 31.

Lanuti reappointed Public Defender Dan Bute to Pode’s case June 4.

But Pode cut him loose June 6 in favor of private attorneys Marvin Bloom of Chicago and Camic of Aurora.

Camic entered his appearance June 13 and told the court that he and Bloom agreed with Corcoran’s initial evaluation, but believed that Pode had recovered and needed another trip to Corcoran’s office.

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