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Brandon Hinton Found Guilty of Murder of Elderly, Disabled Rogers Park Man

By Benjamin Woodard | September 19, 2013 3:34pm
 Brandon Hinton beat and robbed John Costulas, of Rogers Park, on Sept. 2, 2011, outside a Howard Street gas station, prosecutors say.
Hinton Murder Trial
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SKOKIE CRIMINAL COURT — Brandon Hinton was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday afternoon in the 2011 beating and robbery of John Costulas, a developmentally disabled Rogers Park man.

The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before Judge Garritt Howard read the verdict to an expressionless Hinton.

"I'm just so happy that it's over," said Costulas' brother, Nick, after the trial ended. "I feel bad for the people that would be losing a son for so many years. But what is done is done. He has to pay the consequences."

Costulas, 61, had been walking to a Clark Street bus stop in the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2011, when Hinton struck him and robbed him of $10 — his "lunch money," prosecutors said — in the 500 block of West Howard Street.

John Costulas Surveillance Video
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

Costulas, who lived in Rogers Park and worked at Lincoln Park's Anixter Center, a nonprofit organization that provides support to disabled people, died 10 days later from a traumatic brain injury.

Hinton's trial began Tuesday. The prosecution and defense gave closing arguments Thursday morning after the jury viewed evidence, including a taped police interrogation in which Hinton admits to the crime.

"While the rest of us slept, John Costulas walked by this nightmare," said Assistant State's Attorney Catherine Kelly — gesturing toward Hinton — in her closing argument. Hinton "robbed him and left him for dead."

Prosecutors argued that after a night of drinking, Hinton had intended to rob Costulas, who walks with a cane, when he swung at him. Under Illinois law, a person is guilty of first-degree murder when a victim dies during a robbery, no matter the intent.

Defense attorneys argued that Hinton had hit Costulas at "random, out of the blue" and that the robbery was an afterthought and a "crime of convenience."

When the guilty verdict was read, several observers who had been following the case for nearly two years breathed a collective sigh of relief.

"Everyone all along prayed that his would be the outcome," said Evanston Ald. Ann Rainey after the trial. "When we heard the evidence, this much became very clear."

Hinton's family members were also at the courthouse. They declined to comment following the trial.

"This is a tragic situation for everyone, and there are no winners," said defense attorney Brendan Shiller.

Hinton is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22.