A 30-year-old man, who Elgin police described as the "ringleader" of a heroin dealing operation after his arrest and that of 21 others in a May drug sweep, has been sentenced by a Kane County judge to eight years in prison.
Curtis R. Thornton, of the 1000 block of Byron Lane, Elgin, pleaded guilty Wednesday to delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church.
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The offense carried a prison term of between four and 15 years. Kane County Judge Clint Hull accepted the plea.
Prosecutors dismissed a variety of weapons charges against Thornton, who was on parole at the time of his arrest after serving eight years of a 10-year sentence after being found guilty of aggravated kidnapping in Elgin in September 2002, according to court records.
Thornton was described by Elgin police as the "ringleader" for a heroin dealing operation in the city's Poplar Creek neighborhood that drew users from Chicago's collar counties.
Defense attorney Kathleen Colton disputed that characterization of her client, noting he did plead guilty, but only delivered .1 grams of heroin within 1,000 feet of the Congdon Avenue Church of Christ in Elgin.
"He obviously pleaded guilty to one count of delivery of heroin, but that assessment was somewhat inflated," Colton said.
Colton had submitted a motion to dismiss the indictment against Thornton, arguing in part that authorities waited nearly a year to charge him, thus depriving him of possible alibi defenses and hindering his ability to find witnesses in his defense. Thornton decided to plead guilty after receiving a "reasonable offer" from prosecutors, Colton said.
Hull also will recommend to prison officials that Thornton receive substance abuse treatment while in prison.
Thornton also was fined $2,385 and will get credit for more than six months at the Kane County jail while the case was pending, according to court records. He also can have his sentence cut in half for good behavior.