Bond lowered in fatal street racing crash

Updated 9/18/2013 5:54 PM
  • Jeremy A. Betancourt

    Jeremy A. Betancourt

An Antioch man facing 14 years in prison for his role in a fatal street racing crash has been released from Lake County jail to enroll in a Lake Villa drug and behavioral health treatment facility.

But even before Lake County Judge Victoria Rossetti ruled to let Jeremy Betancourt attend inpatient counseling, the victim's mother stormed out of court Wednesday furious that he is free on bond again.

"This is a joke," said Hilda Hinkle, whose daughter Cynthia Perez, 16, was killed during the June 24 crash. "He doesn't need treatment. He needs to be sitting in jail."

Betancourt, 17, of the 41000 block of North Circle Drive, pleaded not guilty to multiple varying charges of aggravated driving under the influence that resulted in death, reckless homicide and aggravated street racing.

If found guilty of the most serious charges, he could be sentenced up to 14 years behind bars, authorities said.

Betancourt had marijuana in his system when he was involved in the street race on Route 120 in Gurnee, authorities said. His Honda was driving erratically, witnesses told police, before it slid into the center median ditch between the eastbound and westbound lanes, went airborne and rolled over.

Perez, also of Antioch, was in the back seat and not wearing a seat belt when the car flipped over, authorities said. She fell out of the rear window during the crash.

Betancourt and two other teens were taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center with injuries that were not life threatening, authorities said. Perez was pronounced dead at the scene.

Betancourt was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated street racing immediately after the crash, but more charges were added after lab tests came back positive for marijuana in his system.

He was initially ordered held on $250,000 bail, but that was lowered to $100,000 after defense attorneys said he was planning to attend a substance and behavioral assistance program in Streamwood. Betancourt remained in that program until Sunday, when he was released after the substance abuse center acknowledged the teen had a bad attitude toward the staff and was not following the rules.

Rossetti remanded Betancourt back to jail on $200,000 bail Monday, but defense attorney Jed Stone requested that bail be returned to $100,000 so the family could enroll Betancourt into a similar program in Lake Villa.

"Here we have a 17-year-old boy who didn't intend to do anything harmful except goof off, but it ended in tragedy," Stone said. "I believe a stay at a treatment facility like this one would be very helpful to this young man."

Rossetti agreed and reduced Betancourt's to $100,000 so he could attend an appointment at the facility Wednesday.

"If accepted, you are to go into (the facility) today," Rossetti said. "But if they don't accept you or there is no bed available, you are to report here first thing in the morning and taken back in custody."

Perez's father, Edgar Perez, also was furious after Rossetti's decision, saying the judge is not considering the victims involved.

"He's allowed to be out and in treatment?" he said.

Both sides are due back in court Nov. 7 for a pretrial hearing. Betancourt's trial is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 7, but Stone said he expects the two sides will agree to a plea deal before the trial starts.

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