Why a convicted killer claimed he got off easy with 47-year sentence

  • Adam Belmont of Northlake at his arraignment in a DuPage County courtroom on charges of first-degree murder and sexual assault. An appellate court has denied his request for resentencing.

    Adam Belmont of Northlake at his arraignment in a DuPage County courtroom on charges of first-degree murder and sexual assault. An appellate court has denied his request for resentencing. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer, 2013

 
Updated 3/30/2018 8:28 AM

Why would a convicted murderer file an appeal arguing that his 47-year prison term is too light?

In the case of Adam D. Belmont -- locked up for the 2012 slaying of former girlfriend Alyssa Van Meter in Woodridge -- it may have been a sly effort to get an even shorter prison stay.

 

At least that was the determination of the 2nd District Appellate Court when it denied Belmont's appeal this week.

Belmont, 29, was sentenced in June 2015 to 35 years in prison for first-degree murder and another 12 years for aggravated criminal sexual assault. He pleaded guilty a month earlier to allegations he broke into Van Meter's apartment, choked and sexually assaulted the 25-year-old, then fatally stabbed her with a knife she had given him as an anniversary present.

In his appeal, Belmont argued state law requires he receive an extra 10 years in prison on the sexual assault charge, because he used a deadly weapon in the attack.

Neither DuPage County prosecutors nor the appellate court disagreed. But in their unanimous 5-page ruling, justices decided the mistake did not deprive Belmont of a fair sentencing hearing.

What's more, Justice Joseph Birkett -- the onetime DuPage County state's attorney -- suggested Belmont's motives may have gone beyond simply fixing an error.

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"It appears that defendant is seeking another bite at the sentencing apple, through a creative legal avenue," Birkett wrote. "Defendant's bare speculation that a resentencing would ultimately benefit him, despite an increase in his sentence for aggravated criminal sexual assault, is insufficient to establish plain error."

Belmont is serving his time at the maximum-security Menard Correctional Center downstate. He's not eligible for parole until 2058.

Insult to injury

As if having his arguments unanimously rejected weren't bad enough, the appellate court ordered Belmont to pay a $50 fee to help pay the costs of his appeal. State prosecutors asked for the fee.

Kane County Chief Deputy Sheriff Thomas Bumgarner is retiring in April after nearly four decades on the force. The county board will honor him with a proclamation April 10.
Kane County Chief Deputy Sheriff Thomas Bumgarner is retiring in April after nearly four decades on the force. The county board will honor him with a proclamation April 10. - Courtesy of the Kane County Sheriff
Signing off

Sunday, June 10, 1979: The White Sox trounced the Brewers, the Cubs beat up on the Dodgers, Yes was ending a three-day gig at the Amphitheater, and Thomas L. Bumgarner began working for Kane County Sheriff George Kramer.

In April, the now-chief deputy wraps up his career, with kudos from current Sheriff Don Kramer, George's son.

The county board will honor Bumgarner on April 10, Daily Herald senior staff writer James Fuller tells us. He's served in pretty much every capacity at the sheriff's office. Most recently, he's been in charge of the public safety/patrol command division.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Bumgarner should be commended for the mentorship, humor, psychology sessions, professionalism, energy and determination to get the job done," reads the resolution that will be voted on that day.

Kramer is promoting Lt. Patrick Gengler to chief deputy after Bumgarner's retirement.

Scott Turyna nearly lost his right to appeal his conviction and 17-year sentence on charges he beat and shot a gun at his now former wife in 2016.
Scott Turyna nearly lost his right to appeal his conviction and 17-year sentence on charges he beat and shot a gun at his now former wife in 2016.
Don't be late

It's not uncommon for defense teams to disagree on trial strategy: Do you put the defendant on the witness stand? How long do you cross-examine a victim? Can your expert witness discredit results from a police lab?

But one step defense attorneys should always agree on is filing a motion within 30 days of a guilty verdict asking a judge for a new trial. While almost always denied, it's a procedural step required for a defendant to appeal.

That step nearly got skipped in the case of a St. Charles man convicted in February of beating and firing a gun at his now ex-wife.

As Daily Herald legal affairs writer Harry Hitzeman tells us, the husband-and-wife legal team representing Scott Turyna not only didn't file any post-trial motions, but they didn't even talk with their client about it.

"You're kidding," Judge D.J. Tegeler said last Friday when Robert and Alison Motta told him they didn't file paperwork for a new trial within the 30-day window. The apparent gaffe meant Tegeler could have proceeded to sentencing, depriving Turyna of an appeal.

Robert Motta blamed the lapse on his hectic schedule and asked for a chance to file the motion two weeks after the deadline.

"There's really no valid excuse other than the fact that I was busy," he said.

Tegeler said the 1,400-page code of criminal procedure has a lot of confusing statutes, but the 30-day deadline is not one of them.

"You're asking me to excuse what I consider complete incompetence," Tegeler said.

The judge ultimately relented, then promptly denied the request for a new trial before sentencing Turyna to 17 years in prison.

But at least Turyna can appeal ... assuming his lawyers file it on time.

Cops helping troops

Buffalo Grove police are teaming with Help USA Troops, an organization launched in honor of a Marine from Arlington Heights killed while serving in Afghanistan, to collect items for soldiers stationed overseas.

Donations including personal hygiene items, pocket-size food and snacks, candy, gum, single-serving powdered drink packs and iTunes gift cards can be dropped off until April 25 in a Help USA Troops box in the police station lobby, 46 Raupp Blvd. A more detailed list of requested items is with the box and online at www.helpUSAtroops.com.

"As a military veteran and police officer, I know how much the support of family and friends means, and I'm glad to give back as often as I can," officer Matthew Mills, a member of the department's Community Relations Unit, said in an announcement of the partnership. "I have served overseas, and I vividly remember how much it meant to receive a package from back home."

Help USA Troops began in memory of Marine Lance Cpl. James Stack, a 20-year-old from Arlington Heights who was killed in action on Nov. 10, 2010.

Scammed?

When we write about scams in this space, it's usually to warn you about the new ways concocted by thieves to get your money.

So for a twist, here's how you can get money back: If you lost money to a scammer who had you pay using Western Union between 2004 and Jan. 19, 2017, you can now file a claim with the Federal Trade Commission.

To make a claim online, visit the FTC's website, FTV.gov, and search for the "refunds" link in the cases and proceedings area of the "Enforcement" section.

Money for the refunds comes from $586 million Western Union agreed to pay to settle claims it aided and abetted wire fraud.

• Got a tip? Send an email to copsandcrime@dailyherald.com or call (847) 427-4483.

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