America Miramontes came to the Skokie courthouse Thursday expecting to deliver a victim impact statement on how the death of her son Israel Moreno affected her family. She came expecting to see Ashur Hidou - the 19-year-old convicted of her son's murder - sentenced to prison.
She left unsatisfied.
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Instead of hearing Cook County Circuit Court Judge Larry Axelrood impose a sentence, she heard Hidou tell the court he wanted to fire David Carrabotta and Patrick O'Byrne, the attorneys who represented him during his April trial.
"I want to get rid of them," said Hidou, who stabbed Moreno, a 21-year-old rival gang member, to death in the early morning hours of June 14, 2008 at the intersection of Laurel Avenue and Washington Street in Des Plaines.
Axelrood gave Hidou a week to hire new counsel. In the interim, he ordered Carrabotta and O'Byrne to continue to represent the former Bay Colony resident who has spent the last two years in Cook County Jail on $1 million bail.
But Axelrood warned Hidou that the court won't wait forever.
"I'm not going to continue this indefinitely," he said.
If a new attorney takes over, sentencing could be delayed several months said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Rick Cenar. If not, Hidou will have to rely on his present counsel.
After two years, Moreno's family wants closure.
"I want it over and done with," said the visibly upset Miramontes, surrounded by about 14 family members and friends. "I can't go on with this anymore."
Hidou and Moreno, both of Des Plaines, were onetime acquaintance who authorities say belonged to rival gangs. But as Axelrood pointed out in his finding, gang affiliation was a "side note" to this altercation.
Defense attorneys insisted Hidou killed Moreno in self-defense because he feared Moreno would hurt him or a family with whom Hidou was very close. The murder occurred after Moreno approached that family's apartment about 2 a.m. and called for one of the residents, a young woman who he had previously dated. When she didn't respond, Moreno and a friend walked away, which is when prosecutors say Hidou exited the apartment, approached Moreno and attacked him with a knife.
For a first-degree murder conviction, Hidou faces 20 to 60 years in prison. He must complete 100 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Hidou next appears in court June 17.