After Jaime Zarate's parents mortgaged their home to post his bond in a home invasion and attempted murder case out of Elgin, he made drastic changes to his life.
He went back to school, started a business, coached soccer for his two sons and disassociated himself from his former gang -- even having tattoos removed.
"During my teen years, I fell in with the wrong crowd," said a remorseful Zarate, 32. "I believed these people were my friends."
Zarate's behavior may have changed, but his past caught up with him this week in Kane County court, where he was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in the June 2012 crime.
"All the things you have done well, unfortunately you don't get to walk away from everything you did earlier," Kane County Judge Clint Hull said late Wednesday afternoon. "I can't ignore what happened that night, nor can I ignore what you've done in the past."
A jury convicted Zarate of home invasion and two counts of attempted murder in a trial this spring. According to prosecutors, at around 3:20 a.m. on June 23, 2012, Zarate drove another man, Modesto Rosales, 30, to a home on the 400 block of Raymond Street where Rosales' ex-girlfriend, with whom he had a child, and another man lived.
Rosales broke windows and forced his way through the front door, pummeling the man and woman. Zarate claimed he was trying to break up the fight, but at one point, the man had Rosales in a headlock and Zarate came to Rosales' aid, punching the man several times.
The man lost several teeth as he was beaten with an iron, computer monitor and a chair; the woman needed 10 staples to her head; and her son, who was 5 at the time, witnessed part of the attack, prosecutors said. Both victims had deep cuts.
Hull acknowledged that Rosales was the primary aggressor, but stressed that Zarate followed Rosales into the home and joined in the fight at a key moment. Hull also noted Zarate's extensive criminal record, which now includes six felony convictions, two of which were for attempted murder and one, a weapons charge, that was committed while he was free on bond in the Elgin case.
Rosales, 30, of Elgin, pleaded guilty in December 2013 and was sentenced to 17 years in the attack.
Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Mark Stajdohar argued for a 54-year prison term, noting Zarate was sentenced to the minimum six years in prison for a 2006 attempted murder and was on parole when arrested in the Elgin case. Stajdohar argued for consecutive sentences because the victims suffered "severe bodily injury" in the crime while another Class 1 or Class X felony was committed.
"If two attempted first-degree murder convictions doesn't make you a bad person, I don't know what does," Stajdohar said, noting letters in support of Zarate stressed he was a hard worker. "He works hard at crime and terrorizing others."
Assistant Public Defender Julia Yetter argued for the minimum six-year term, saying Zarate was on the road to rehabilitation, prison would hurt his family, and that Rosales caused "the lion's share" of injuries.
Under state law, Zarate must serve 85 percent of his sentence, or nearly 24 years. He gets credit for 793 days served at the Kane County jail.
Hull also ordered $15,000 restitution to be paid to the male victim; that money will be paid in a lump sum from the $50,000 posted by Zarate's parents as bond.