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updated: 4/24/2014 5:16 PM

Citing error, judge knocks 3 years off fatal Kane DUI crash

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  • Benjamin J. Black

      Benjamin J. Black


Citing a legal error, a Kane County judge took three years off a sentence for a fatal DUI crash in Virgil Township in February 2013.

Circuit Judge James Hallock originally issued a 12-year prison term for Benjamin J. Black, 28, of Sycamore, who pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI.

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Black had heroin in his system when he rear-ended a vehicle on Route 64 in Virgil Township, causing a crash that killed Matthew Ranken, 11, of Sycamore, a passenger in one of the cars.

Black's defense attorney, D.J. Tegeler, argued Thursday Hallock should reconsider the sentence.

Tegeler said Hallock incorrectly considered "serious harm or death" as an aggravating factor in Black's sentence.

"That is inherent in the charge here," Tegeler said.

"The courts never like to say plain error, especially when talking about themselves. It was plain error," Hallock said. "The death of the victim is actually built into the nature of the charges in which the defendant pleaded guilty."

Matthew's mother, Tonda Ranken, left the courtroom in tears and declined to comment afterward.

"Determining a sentence is one of the most difficult things a judge does. We respect Judge Hallock's decision," said Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon.

Under state law, Black must served 85 percent of his sentence, or about 7½ years.

"Although he's pleased with today, he still has trouble forgiving himself for everything that's occurred," Tegeler said.

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