Serna appears in court for arraignment

By Nick Walton -



A juvenile facing felony charges from a January shooting at West Liberty-Salem High School made his initial court appearance in the general division of the Champaign County Common Pleas Court on Thursday.

Multiple motions and a trial date were discussed during an arraignment hearing for Ely R. Serna.

Serna, 17, was indicted by a Champaign County grand jury Tuesday on two counts of attempted murder, three counts of felonious assault, six counts of improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation or a school safety zone, and one count each of inducing panic and illegal conveyance or possession of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone.

The charges stem from a Jan. 20 shooting at West Liberty-Salem High School.

During Thursday’s hearing, Judge Nick Selvaggio stated he was made aware of a motion the defense filed on Wednesday seeking a stay of the transfer pending an appeal.

Selvaggio added the state filed a response to this motion on Thursday and the juvenile court denied the motion to stay on Thursday.

When the matter of a plea was brought up, Attorney Dennis Lieberman, Serna’s attorney, stated they remain mute on the plea. When asked why they desire to do this, Lieberman said there is a pending appeal to keep the case in the juvenile jurisdiction.

Selvaggio said the court would enter a not guilty plea on behalf of Serna at this time adding there may be a desire to supplement the not guilty plea.

During the hearing, the court also ordered for Serna to be free of chain restraints. Serna had chain restraints around his ankles when he was brought into court before Selvaggio discussed the matter with both parties and ordered for the restraints to be removed.

Case scheduling

After the discussion of a plea, Selvaggio asked both parties if they were willing to proceed with a case scheduling conference instead of having the parties come back 10 days later for these proceedings as the court normally does in other cases. Both parties agreed to proceed with the scheduling conference.

During these proceedings, the parties discussed a potential date for if the case proceeds to a jury trial along with potential motions the parties plan to file.

When scheduling a trial was discussed, Selvaggio said it was the court’s preference to schedule trial where a conclusion would occur prior to the West Liberty-Salem school district returning to school in order to give the student body an opportunity to put the unfortunate set of circumstances behind them as they start a new school year.

Selvaggio noted teachers return to school on Aug. 30 while students return Sept. 5. He added the court is anticipating the trial to run for two weeks due to an extended jury selection process and a visitation to the school.

After the parties and court discussed potential dates, trial dates were scheduled for the weeks of Aug. 21 and 28.

Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi said the state anticipates having 30 to 50 witnesses for trial while Lieberman said the defense anticipates calling 10 witnesses.

In addition to trial, a pretrial conference was scheduled for July 13 and a final pretrial conference was scheduled for Aug. 7.

Lieberman informed the court that he is contemplating filing a motion to dismiss the indictment and is also contemplating filing several other motions. one of which would seek to have a mental examination of Serna.

Previously during the proceedings in the juvenile court, a competency evaluation was ordered for Serna. Following a competency hearing on May 5, Serna was found to be competent on May 19.

The court granted a motion for a jury view from the state at West Liberty-Salem schools, 7208 N. U.S. Highway 68, meaning the court would be transporting the jury to this location.

After listening to both parties on the issue of bond, the court established bond at $1 million. If bond is posted, Serna was ordered to follow special conditions of bond including remaining on electronically monitored house arrest at his residence under adult supervision 24 hours a day, being only allowed to travel to and from court and Lieberman’s office, and having no contact with West Liberty-Salem students, administrators or employees.

Two people were injured in the January shooting, including West Liberty-Salem High School student Logan Cole. Cole was in attendance for Thursday’s hearing.


By Nick Walton

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.