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Jail Inmate Charged In Weapon-Smuggling Scheme

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An Indiana man being held for the 2008 murder of a Lakeview restaurant manager faces new charges for allegedly taking part in a scheme to smuggle weapons into the Cook County Jail in an effort to arrange a plea deal.

David Sidener, 52, of Evansville, was charged with two counts of possession of contraband in a penal institution, according to a release from the Cook County Sheriff's office. Because the contraband included bullets and gunpowder, the charges rise to Class X felonies.

An investigation by the sheriff's Criminal Intelligence Unit found Sidener planned to use his knowledge of the location of the weapons to curry favor with prosecutors and secure a "deal" to have his murder charge dropped, the release said.

He has been held without bond since October 2008, accused of fatally beating and robbing Randall Hilderbrand after the two left a Lakeview bar and went to Lucca's Restaurant, where Hilderbrand was manager, the release said.

Hilderbrand, 47, was viciously beaten and tied up in the basement of the restaurant, which Sidener looted, according to the sheriff's office. Sidener was on parole for attempted murder at the time.

While awaiting trial, Sidener has been held in the psychiatric wing of the jail's maximum security division. On Feb. 25, he contacted CIU investigators with a tip about a weapon hidden in the jail. But he said he would only reveal the location if his murder charge was dropped – something investigators said they couldn't do, the release said.

Sidener then refused to cooperate and said the information would instead be leaked to the media. As investigators led him back to his cell, he allegedly said, "This is not how I planned it would go."

Further investigation found Sidener had been in regular communication with a Cermak Hospital therapist, who had received two packages mailed from Sidener's hometown.

In a a room where the therapist met with detainees, investigators found fifteen .22 caliber bullet hidden inside a film projector under a screwed-on cover. They also took apart a CD player to find a plastic bag packed with gun powder.

Sidener said he convinced the therapist to receive the devices as "donations" to his therapy. Investigators learned hed arranged for another electronic device to be shipped to the therapis twith pieces for a small "zip gun." That package never arrived.

On March 9, investigators and Evansville police carried out search warrants and interviews that led to the arrest of Sidener's 56-year-old half-brother, Michael Ward. He was charged with manufacturing hoax devices after police found what appeared to be a bomb in his home.

The Cermak Hospital therapist has been questioned, but said he can't recall being asked to be part of a smuggling scheme, the sheriff's office said. The Cook County Health and Hospital System has suspended him without pay.

Since this incident, the jail has implemented a new policy for items mailed to Cermak. Those packages must first be delivered to the jail's external operations staff, which oversees all incoming mail. At Cermak, they oversee the opening of the package by appropriate staff, who verify the contents and confirm the identity of the sender and the items inside.

Bond for Sidener's new charges was set at $1 million Tuesday. A preliminary hearing is set for April 12.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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