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Article updated: 2/6/2014 4:49 PM

Attorney wants probation in fatal crash

Jeremy Betancourt

Jeremy Betancourt

 
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The defense attorney for an Antioch-area teen who was charged in an illegal street race that left one person dead said his client should be sentenced to probation, not prison, because of "extraordinary circumstances" in the case.

However, in court Thursday, a Lake County prosecutor and judge blocked attorney Jed Stone's push for a closed-door meeting to explain his request for Jeremy Betancourt, 18, saying the defense hasn't responded to the plea deal already on the table.

During the pretrial hearing in front of Lake County Judge Victoria Rossetti, Stone attempted to turn in a binder of reports that, he said, will show how Betancourt has become more responsible since the June 24 crash that killed Antioch High School junior Cynthia Perez on Route 120 in Gurnee.

Rossetti refused to accept the binder unless Stone and Assistant State's Attorney Lauren Kalcheim-Rothenberg were prepared to go into the closed-door meeting to craft a plea deal that would resolve the case.

Kalcheim-Rothenberg refused, saying she previously offered a deal to Stone and Betancourt but it hasn't been accepted or rejected.

Neither Stone nor Kalcheim-Rothenberg would release details of the deal. However, Kalcheim-Rothenberg said Rossetti would determine any prison time during a sentencing hearing, and the state would cap the maximum time Betancourt would spend behind bars.

Outside of the courtroom, Stone said he believes the case should be removed from "the heartland of criminal cases" due to "extraordinary circumstances," and Betancourt should ultimately be sentenced to probation. He did not provide details about the circumstances.

"My ultimate goal is to get Jeremy a fair and just sentence that recognizes he is a child with a history of trouble, who is working hard to fix those problems," Stone said.

Betancourt, of the 41000 block of Circle Drive, was driving erratically during the illegal street race when his Honda slid into the center median ditch, went airborne and rolled over, authorities said.

Perez, 16, who was not wearing a seat belt in the back seat of the vehicle, fell out the rear window when the vehicle flipped. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Betancourt and two other passengers were treated and released from Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.

He was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated street racing, but an aggravated driving under the influence charge was added after test results showed he had marijuana in his system.

He was given a $100,000 bail so he could enroll in a substance and behavioral assistance program. Betancourt has been released from a Lake Villa treatment center, but is on a 24-hour curfew. He is allowed to leave home only to attend school, court, and drug treatment programs.

Stone said there is a good chance a plea deal will be worked out before the case goes to trial March 31. Both sides are due back in court March 18 for another pretrial hearing.

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