An appellate court has upheld a 10-year contempt of court sentence for an Elgin man who refused to testify about a 2009 murder after he struck a deal with prosecutors.
Raul Perez-Gonzalez, 23, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his role in the death of Paola Rodriguez, 22, of Rochelle, who was caught in gang crossfire and killed Jan. 30, 2009, on the 600 block of Raymond Street.
Perez-Gonzalez pleaded guilty in exchange for a 20-year, minimum sentence, and an agreement to testify against Tony Rosalez, who prosecutors argued had pulled the trigger.
If he failed to testify, the prison term would increase to 35 years. Perez-Gonzalez went back on his word, refused to testify and Judge James Hallock later slapped an additional 10 years for contempt to be served after the murder sentence.
Perez-Gonzalez' attorneys argued the 10-year contempt sentence was excessive, beyond the judge's discretion and prosecutors had no right to increase the sentence from 20 to 35 years.
The appellate panel, in its opinion this week, disagreed, saying prosecutors were allowed to increase the sentence based on the agreement made with Perez-Gonzalez.
"The severity of the sentence here properly deters future witnesses from refusing to testify and obstructing the administration of justice in serious criminal cases," the judges wrote. "The trial court specifically stated that (Perez-Gonzalez') failure to testify hindered the prosecution of (Tony) Rosalez and that the sentence was meant to served as a deterrent to future witnesses."
Rozalez, now 21, is serving a 35-year sentence for the murder of Rodriquez, who was mother to a 5-month-old when she was killed.
Another defendant, Manith Vilayhong, now 26, was sentenced to 20 years after he pleaded guilty and agreed to testify.
Under state law, Perez-Gonzalez can have the contempt sentence cut in half for good behavior, but must serve 100 percent of the murder term.
He is due for prison release in 2050.