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updated: 2/5/2012 4:37 PM

Court: deportation shouldn't shorten jail sentence

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Should non-U.S. citizens get shorter sentences if they're just going to be deported when they get out of prison anyway?

An appellate court panel doesn't think so, as it recently upheld a 55-year prison sentence issued to a Jamaican citizen and Joliet resident for the Oct. 30, 2007 murder of his ex-girlfriend.

Hezekiah Hamilton, 28, was convicted in March 2010 of stabbing Brenetta Beck, 25, of Aurora.

She was stabbed 54 times just 10 days after she gave birth to the couple's second child.

During the four-day bench trial prosecuted by then-Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti himself, witnesses testified Hamilton was upset about paying child support.

Hamilton appealed his sentence, essentially arguing that it was unjustified because he would eventually be deported. Prosecutors disagreed, saying a defendant's status as a deportable alien should not be a factor in sentencing.

The appellate panel agreed with the state.

"When a first-degree murder sentence is otherwise appropriate and commensurate with the seriousness of the offense, it would be inconsistent with the ends of justice for a status as a deportable alien to be cause to reduce the sentence," the judges wrote.

They cited three reasons: It would be unfair to U.S. citizens because they would receive harsher sentences; it would reduce punishment and deterrence to others from committing similar crimes; and it would start a policy of simply "exporting convicted offenders where possible."

Hamilton will be 79 when his sentence is over.

Great harm in Elgin home invasion: A 23-year-old Elgin man unsuccessfully tried to have his 20-year sentence reduced for home invasion, armed robbery and a beating.

Christian Lopez-Bonilla was one of six people who cut the phone line and broke into an Elgin home Aug. 22, 2008. The homeowner used a baseball bat to fight the intruders, but was jumped, knocked down and beaten, and someone smashed his head into a dresser hard enough to take chunks of wood out of it.

Lopez-Bonilla argued that the cuts to the victim's head, left eye and left arm did not constitute "great bodily harm," a legal term that in this case would require Lopez-Bonilla to serve 85 percent instead of 50 percent of his sentence.

The appellate panel disagreed and instead of serving 10 years, he will be behind bars for 17 years.

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