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updated: 3/26/2014 4:00 PM

Addict gets 12 years in crash that killed 11-year-old Sycamore boy

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  • Benjamin J. Black

    Benjamin J. Black


A Sycamore man was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison for causing the death of an 11-year-old boy last year crash in Virgil Township.

Black, of the 500 block of Sparkhayes Drive, had heroin in his system last February when he rear-ended a car in which Matthew Ranken, also of Sycamore, was a passenger.

Tonda Ranken, the boy's mother, said she believed the sentence in her son's death was fair.

"Now it's time to heal. We don't have to worry about this part anymore," she said. "I do want to see (Black) get some help and become a better person."

Black was headed west on Route 64 and failed to brake for a line of cars that had stopped for another accident up the road.

Black submitted to chemical tests shortly after the crash and was charged a few months later with aggravated DUI.

In Illinois, drivers who have illegal drugs in their systems are automatically criminally responsible if they cause a severe crash; prosecutors do not have to prove the driver was impaired.

Last year, Black entered a "blind" or "cold" plea in which a defendant admits guilt and leaves the sentence in the hands of a judge, in this case James Hallock, instead of agreeing on a punishment with prosecutors beforehand.

Hallock said Black's previous driving record and actions "shows a mindset for the defendant's total disregard for public safety."

"Society will not tolerate mixing drugs and driving because mixing drugs and driving causes serious death and injury on our roads," Hallock said.

Defense attorney D.J. Tegeler argued to Hallock last week that his client had accepted responsibility by pleading guilty and slipped back into heroin use when he reunited with former acquaintances after moving back to the area from Florida.

Tegeler said Black used heroin about 24 hours before the crash and did not show impairment at the scene.

"(Black) is absolutely horrified that his actions in any way, shape or form caused the death of an 11-year-old boy," Tegeler said.

Black also apologized to the family and said he did not expect them to forgive him.

Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen argued that Black was still under the influence that night, questioning why all the other drivers had stopped when seeing the emergency vehicles on Route 64 but Black didn't, causing a chain-reaction crash.

Black faced up to 14 years in prison.

Under state law, he must serve 85 percent of his sentence, or about 10 years. He also gets credit for about a year in jail while the case was pending.

Matthew Ranken's survivors and others hurt in the crash also have sued Black for damages. That case is next due in court on May 22.

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