Ex-UI football player sentenced to 90 years
UPDATED 10:20 p.m. Wednesday
URBANA — Convicted rapist Steven Feagin, described by a Champaign County prosecutor as someone with two faces — one normal and part of regular society, the other a masked sexual predator — was sentenced to the maximum of 90 years in jail for a rape that occurred 17 years ago in Urbana.
From Deerfield Beach, Fla., Feagin, 42, is a former University of Illinois football player who attended the university on scholarship from 1989 until he graduated in 1994 with a degree in speech communication. He stayed in the area as a resident until eventually moving back to Florida.
In June, a jury found Feagin guilty of three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault for a July 13, 1995, attack on a then-22-year-old woman in her apartment on West Illinois Street in Urbana.
DNA in semen left behind at the scene linked him to the rape. At the trial, a crime lab analyst testified that the odds were 1 in 1 quintillion (a "one with 18 zeros") that the semen belonged to someone other than Feagin.
"Technology caught up with him. It was inevitable that this was going to be the result," said State's Attorney Julia Rietz after the sentencing.
Feagin has been charged with two other rape cases in Champaign-Urbana from the early 1990s, one in 1993 and another in 1995. At a hearing next month, the state will determine how it will pursue those cases given Feagin's sentencing for the July 13, 1995, case, Rietz said.
At the time of the rapes, police issued several crime alerts urging women to be alert and lock their doors. Victims lived in apartments near the UI campus and were white, blond women. The years passed, and although the cases remained unsolved, in 2000, prosecutors filed aggravated criminal sexual assault charges against the DNA under the name James Doe.
In 2008, Urbana police were informed that DNA taken from the cases matched DNA from a June 2007 Pompano Beach, Fla., rape case. John Lockard, an evidence technician with the Urbana police, combed through old UI phone directories looking for a link between the Florida case and the Urbana ones. He was following up on a hunch the rapist was a UI student from Florida.
Florida police later obtained a DNA sample from Feagin and linked him to the Florida case and those in Illinois. He was arrested in September 2008 while working at a Pompano Beach, Fla., car wash. The Florida case was eventually dropped after an apparent breakdown in the working relationship between the victim and the prosecutor there, and Feagin was sent to Illinois.
"He is a multiple-decade serial rapist. He represents an unbelievable and untenable risk to society," said Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar, who asked Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis for the maximum sentence of 30 years for each of the three sexual assault charges for which Feagin was found guilty.
Feagin's lawyers, George Vargas and Steve Schmidt of the public defender's office, said Feagin was one of 17 children of migrant farmers. He grew up poor but was able to excel in sports and attend the UI on scholarship, Vargas said.
"He's a compassionate person. He's somebody's son, he's somebody's brother. ... He has touched a lot of lives," Vargas said.
In his statement to the court, Feagin said he was a "productive member of society," a father of three children, holding down sales jobs and coaching youth athletics.
"I'm sorry we had to all go through this terrible ordeal," he said.
Lozar described Feagin as a predator who presented one face to the public — a man who could blend in as a "normal person" and someone who put on a mask and preyed on victims he could hurt and exploit.
"He's left behind a trail of damage behind him," Lozar said.
"It's hard not to think about what happened to me," said the victim of the July 13, 1995, attack, as she read a statement to the court about how the attack has affected her. At the time she was an art student; she is now an art teacher.
"As a teacher I worry about the girls" as they graduate high school and leave to attend college, she said. She worries about them being too trusting or letting their guards down.
After the rape, "I was terrified to be alone," she said. It was difficult to sleep, she suffered many nightmares "and fear entered my life," she said.
The woman worried about unlocked windows and doors. She worried when a car drove by slowly in front of her house.
"Trusting new people in my life, especially men, is difficult," she said.
After hearing the guilty verdict last month, "it feels like someone has told me I can finally breathe."
Feagin, Difanis said, committed an "unspeakable act of violence against a young woman."
The judge said the court has to send a message "loudly and clearly that our society cannot tolerate this kind of violence."
Because the attack occurred before truth-in-sentencing legislation, which requires inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, Feagin is subject to day-to-day good time. So far he has spent 440 days in jail.