Antioch Twp. man avoids prison in fatal street racing crash

Updated 6/30/2014 5:52 PM
  • Jeremy A. Betancourt

    Jeremy A. Betancourt

An Antioch Township teen avoided a decade in prison for having marijuana in his system when he rolled his car and killed a passenger during an illegal street race one year ago.

Instead, Lake County Judge Victoria Rossetti made sure Jeremy Betancourt, 18, will spend every night of the next 30 months in the Lake County jail after she sentenced him to two-and-a-half years of periodic imprisonment during a hearing in Lake County court Monday.

Betancourt will be released from jail only to attend school or counseling, Rossetti said, and warned he must follow her guidelines or he will be sent to prison.

"It's to school and back, it's to treatment and back. There is no stopping anywhere," Rossetti said, adding if Betancourt even stops at home or a fast-food restaurant, he will be in violation of her court order. "If you violate the order, you will face the consequences."

Betancourt cried throughout most of the hearing. He was taken into custody immediately after the hearing.

"I am disappointed in her decision," said Hilda Hinkle, mother of Cynthia Perez, of Antioch, who was killed when Betancourt rolled the car he was driving during the street race with Michael Dawson, 20, also of Antioch Township. "I feel my daughter did not get justice today."

Betancourt was sentenced after he pleaded guilty March 27 to one count of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs that resulted in death for the crash that killed Perez, 16, who was a passenger in the back seat.

Authorities said Betancourt was racing on Route 120 in Gurnee on June 24, 2013, when he lost control of the car, slid into a median, and overturned.

Perez was ejected from the car and was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said. Betancourt and two others were injured but survived the crash.

A police officer testified Monday that Betancourt was traveling at 77 to 87 mph when he was cut off by Dawson, which caused Betancourt to lose control of the car.

Dawson pleaded guilty to aggravated street racing in November 2013, and was sentenced to 18 months of periodic imprisonment and 30 months of probation.

Betancourt also was sentenced to four years of intense probation after Rossetti determined "extraordinary circumstances" existed to not sentence him to prison.

She ordered Betancourt to perform 250 hours of community service while on probation. Also, he is not allowed to use any drugs or alcohol, must pay $500 to the Lake County Bar Foundation drug court, and he must serve on a victim impact panel.

"If it sounds like this was a slap on the wrist, it's not," Rossetti said. "If there is a violation, there is no other probation for you. The next step is prison."

In exchange for the guilty plea from Betancourt, felony counts of reckless homicide, aggravated street racing and additional aggravated DUI charges were dropped.

During the sentencing, Hinkle and other family members testified their lives have been harshly affected since Perez's death.

"(The loss) is indescribable. It is a feeling of emptiness and loneliness all in one," Hinkle said as she stared at Betancourt in the courtroom. "In time, this young man will move on from this and he will have a life. But, there will not be any memories of Cindy past June 24 of 2013."

Betancourt made a brief apology in court before being sentenced, saying, "I'm sincerely sorry for everything that happened. I wish it could have been me instead of Cynthia."

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