“Let the Lord forgive him,” Robert Davis said of his godson on Thursday, in the halls of the Joliet courthouse. “We all make mistakes sometimes.”
That mistake—robbing a New Lenox Township home while the owner's dead body decayed inside—cost John White a six-year sentence.
Neither his alleged drug problem nor were enough to convince Will County Judge Daniel Rozak that a probation program for felons with substance abuse problems was appropriate.
The same was true of David Reed. Both he and White admitted in February to having .
Police found Jones’ body on June 14, 2011, four days after he was dealt a deadly blow to the head with a lamp. He was buried almost one year ago to the day.
Rozak said he took the men’s individual “history, character and condition” into consideration. With no other arrests on his record, Reed, 24, got four years—the minimum sentence for a Class 1 felony.
The announcement caused Reed, his hands tied, his eyes imploring, to drop his head in disappointment. So did White, 21, knowing that his own sentence, yet announced, wouldn’t be any better. In fact, it was worse. He was given two more years than Reed because of a previous conviction on his record.
Groans of heartbreak went up from members of White’s family. His brother, Antwan Kemp, stormed out of the courtroom and retook his seat after a breather.
Defense attorneys asked Rozak to reconsider his decision, and a hearing was scheduled July 31 to take up the issue. It brought White’s brother no consolation.
“He ain’t gonna reconsider, man,” Kemp said. “He doesn’t care.”
To hear his godmother tell it, White’s childhood was littered with haplessness and tragedy.
“It should have been different,” Gillie Davis, who helped raise the boy, said. “He just got caught up with something young people do. He had such a hard life as a child. His mother is dead, and he doesn’t know where his father is.”
Reed’s mother, Vivian Smith, was hopeful Rozak will change his mind next month. She also spoke outside the courtroom of circumstances outside her son’s control. She is planning to move to Georgia in September and has been pining to take Reed off the violent Chicago streets and go elsewhere for “peace of mind” and “a change of life.”
“Too much killing,” she said. “You just can’t live your life in Illinois anymore.”
With good behavior and credit for time already served Reed could be out in one year and White in two.
“He didn’t do anything that harsh,” Smith said of her son. “He took a radio. Yes, he went in a dead man’s house. But he didn’t know it was a dead man’s house.”
Rodney Julun is and enlisting the help of Reed and White to rob the home. Prosecutors plan to call Reed and White to testify against him at trial.
Rozak will rule next week whether , as defense attorneys allege, “psychologically coerced.” The judge postponed the issue on one occasion to view interrogation footage for himself and once more to think it over.
Gail Page, a cousin of Jones who has appeared at , including Thursday's, said she didn’t mind waiting if it means the right man is punished.
“I’d rather (Rozak) takes his time, and everything is given fair weight and attention,” she said.
As for the men who burglarized her cousin’s home, although she called their actions "cold, callous and uncaring" a month ago, Page believes they were just following Julun's lead. Both men contend that they didn’t know they were going to steal from a dead man’s home—a point of aggravation that appears to have weighed on the judge's decision—until after they arrived. They came clean when they were caught.
And as for their families, Page also has sympathy. In some ways, she said, it must feel as though they, too, “are going to prison.”
Updated at 3:49 p.m.
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