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updated: 9/26/2013 4:21 PM

Teen pleads not guilty in fatal street racing crash

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  • Michael R. Dawson

    Michael R. Dawson


An Antioch Township teen pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he was involved in an illegal street race that killed an Antioch girl.

However, a defense attorney for Michael Dawson, 19, held a closed-door meeting with prosecutors and Lake County Judge Victoria Rossetti to review a possible plea agreement that would, most likely, put Dawson behind bars.

Dawson, of the 25000 block of Herman Drive, pleaded not guilty in front of Rossetti to three counts of aggravated street racing and one count of reckless homicide.

If the case goes to trial and he is found guilty of the most serious charge, Dawson could be sentenced up to 12 years in prison for his role in the June 24 street racing crash in Gurnee.

Immediately after pleading not guilty, defense attorney Jennifer Snyder asked for the closed door conference with Rossetti. Rossetti explained to Dawson in court the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the many factors surrounding the case, as well as listen to a possible negotiated settlement.

Dawson agreed to the meeting between Snyder and Rossetti, and will hear a summary of the discussion in court on Friday, Oct. 4.

Dawson was on probation when he was involved in the street race that killed 16-year-old Antioch High School student Cynthia Perez.

Dawson and 17-year-old Jeremy Betancourt were racing on Route 120 near Hunt Club Road in Gurnee when Betancourt lost control of his vehicle, slid into the center median, and rolled the vehicle, authorities said.

Perez and her boyfriend, Gio Bustos, 20, were not wearing seat belts in the back seat of the car Betancourt was driving, and fell out of the back window when the car rolled over.

Perez was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Bustos, Betancourt, and a third unidentified male were injured and later treated and released from Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.

Betancourt, of the 41000 block of North Circle Drive in Antioch Township, was charged after his release from the hospital with reckless homicide, aggravated street racing and an additional charge of aggravated DUI. A blood test taken after the crash showed Betancourt had marijuana in his system, authorities said.

Betancourt is free from jail after he posted the required 10 percent of his $100,000 bail. However, he has been ordered by the court to remain at a behavioral and drug treatment center in Lake Villa while free on bond.

Dawson remains held in Lake County jail in lieu of $250,000 bail. His trial is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7.

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