Sex offender, formerly of Paxton, faces revocation of probation

PAXTON — A former Paxton man now living in St. Elmo who was convicted in Ford County last year of sex crimes involving children has allegedly violated the terms of his probation by failing to undergo sex offender treatment and by engaging in prohibited behavior, including having “multiple contacts with minors in several reading groups” at the local public library and checking out sexually explicit movies and books from there, according to a petition to revoke his probation.

The petition — filed Feb. 22 by Ford County’s chief probation officer, Jennifer Anderson, and State’s Attorney Andrew Killian — also alleged that Brandon J. Irish, 36, has violated court orders by maintaining multiple Facebook accounts in alias names, searching pornography websites, and keeping “provocative fantasy cartoons” and “nude/sexual photos of himself” on his phone, as discovered by his supervising probation officer in Fayette County, to where his probation was transferred last October.

The petition requested a summons requiring Irish’s appearance in Ford County Circuit Court, as well as a hold on the running of Irish’s four-year probation term until “the final determination of the charge.”

Brandon J. Irish, 36, as he appeared on Oct. 11, 2023, according to the Illinois State Police’s online Sex Offender Registry.

The petition listed Irish’s address as 110 W. 7th St. in St. Elmo, a tiny town of 1,284 located 122 miles from Paxton along U.S. 40 southwest of Effingham and Altamont.

On Wednesday, March 13, Irish appeared in Ford County Circuit Court before Livingston County Associate Circuit Judge Mary Koll — hearing the case as a result of Ford County Circuit Judge Matt Fitton’s recusal — and requested the appointment of a public defender. Koll appointed Harvey Welch of Urbana, who was present in the courtroom and immediately waived the formal reading of the charges and asked that “a general denial” be entered on Irish’s behalf, according to the online court docket. A status hearing on the petition to revoke was then set for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 15, before Koll.

Before Irish was released from custody and placed on four years of probation as part of a plea agreement last February, Irish had been held at the Ford County Jail on a $250,000 bond since summer 2020 as he awaited trial on charges that he sexually assaulted two children under age 13. One of those children was 9, according to the Illinois State Police’s online sex offender registry.

Irish was charged in summer 2020 in connection with allegations that he inappropriately touched a child under age 13 on June 26, 2020, and traveled to meet the child after using an online service to lure them, then allegedly sexually assaulted a different child under age 13 on July 4, 2020.

Irish pleaded guilty before Livingston County Associate Judge Robert Travers to two counts of traveling to meet a minor, a Class 3 felony, and one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, a Class 2 felony. In exchange, Killian agreed to dismiss two additional counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and to reduce a previously filed Class X felony charge of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child to a Class 2 felony — the one to which Irish pleaded guilty.

Irish was sentenced to one 48-month term of probation plus two concurrent 30-month terms. Irish also received a 950-day jail term but received credit for the 950 days he had already served, dating back to July 4, 2020.

Before his 2020 arrest, the 5-foot-1 Irish had volunteered at the since-closed Market Street Theater in downtown Paxton as an actor and helping with the technical side of productions. The theater told the Ford County Chronicle after his arrest that its policy was to “never allow an adult director or cast member to be alone with children.”