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updated: 1/20/2013 4:41 PM

McHenry County man wins appeal, gets reduced sentence

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A McHenry County man convicted of stealing copper piping from a vacant Woodstock home in 2010 successfully appealed his case and will have his prison sentence reduced.

Brett A. Roberts, 38, was convicted in spring 2011 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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He argued he was guilty of burglary, but not residential burglary, because the home he broke into was vacant and up for sale. Its owners had moved to North Carolina with no intent to reoccupy it.

A real estate agent discovered the burglary while visiting the property in May 2010. Prosecutors, according to court documents, proved that Roberts entered the home and stole the pipes because his fingerprints were on them. He sold the copper tubing to a scrap metal recycler, court documents state.

The appellate panel determined that even through Roberts was convicted of burglarizing a home, it was not residential burglary because no one lived in the "dwelling."

"The plain language of the statute specifically requires that the owners or occupants intend to reside in a house (or apartment, etc.) for it to be a dwelling. There is simply no language indicating that an owner's intent that some unidentified person reside in the premises at some unknown date in the future is sufficient to confer the status of "dwelling" for purposes of the residential burglary statute," part of the appellate opinion read.

No date has been set to resentence Roberts, who has several previous felony arrests on his record.

The residential burglary charge carried a prison term of between four and 15 years. The lesser charge of burglary is still a felony, but carries a prison term of between three and seven years.

McHenry County's top cop of 2012: A Huntley police detective recently was honored as the second annual McHenry County Officer of the Year.

Detective Joe Willard was recognized by the McHenry County Chiefs of Police Association, which credited him for investigating an insurance scam in which a local insurance agent is accused of taking payments from customers but not actually writing them policies.

The investigation required Willard to sift through several file cabinets of documents. He also found other victims who had been paying premiums but had really gone without insurance for years, the association said.

Willard also investigated a burglary in which a .38 caliber revolver was stolen from a home. Through his work, police determined the gun had been sold to a gang member in Elgin. The weapon was found and four other people were charged in the case.

"Both of these cases demonstrate the tenacity that Detective Willard put into his work," Huntley Police Chief John Perkins said.

Other nominees included: Algonquin Police Officer Amy Bucci; Cary Police officers Kathy Eiring and Jason Williamson; Lake in the Hills Police Officer Jason Draftz; McHenry County Sheriff Detectives Craig L'Esperance and Jennifer Garafol; and Woodstock Police Detective George Kopulos.

hhitzeman@dailyherald.com

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