A 46-year-old Aurora man began serving a four-year prison term last Friday after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Kane County Judge Timothy Sheldon sentenced Jose L. Renteria, of the 400 block of Claim Street, to prison even though Sheldon agreed that Renteria was not the aggressor in the March 7, 2009 stabbing death of Bradley Vahl, 31, of Aurora.
But Sheldon said he felt the minimum sentence instead of probation was needed because Renteria was drinking, doing cocaine and was armed at 3:30 a.m. the day of Vahl's murder.
"Those are ingredients for disaster, which did occur," Sheldon said at a recent sentencing hearing at which Renteria also was ordered to pay $10,000 in funeral expenses. "The defendant was drinking, was doing illegal drugs and was carrying a knife."
Renteria originally was charged with first-degree murder, which carries a 20- to 60-year sentence. He entered a "cold plea" last December to second-degree murder, which carried a top penalty of 15 years in prison with probation an option. In a cold plea, a defendant does not have a sentence agreed upon with prosecutors and lets a judge decide.
Authorities said Renteria and Vahl were at a home in the 1100 block of Grand Boulevard when a verbal dispute between the two, who didn't know each other, turned physical. Vahl lunged at Renteria, who stabbed Vahl once, cutting his liver.
Defense attorney Liam Dixon said he was disappointed that his client, who has a disabled arm and leg and walks with a cane, did not receive probation.
Under state law, Renteria can have his sentence halved for good behavior.
Camera committee formed: As promised, Robert Spence, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, has appointed a committee of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and other lawyers to study the issue of allowing cameras in courtrooms in Kane, DeKalb and Kendall counties.
The move came after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in January that cameras could be allowed in courtrooms on an experimental, circuit by circuit basis.
There is no timetable for the committee to report back to Spence, who has the final say.
The committee also will draft local court rules if cameras are to be allowed.
Judge Timothy McCann will chair the committee, which will include three other judges, the public defenders and state's attorneys from Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties and three attorneys in private practice.