URBANA — A convicted murderer Thursday fired his privately retained attorney before his sentencing could proceed, claiming his attorney was ineffective by not getting him a plea offer.
Judge Tom Difanis appointed the public defender's office to represent Anthony Meads, 21, of the 200 block of West Church Street, C, and agreed to continue his sentencing hearing to July 22.
Meads, 21, was set to be sentenced for the July 4, 2012, first-degree murder of Desirae Austin, 20, of Champaign.
A jury found that Meads participated in a mob action between two feuding gangs in the Garden Hills neighborhood of northwest Champaign where Mrs. Austin was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest — the victim of a bullet intended for someone else.
And although Meads was not believed to have fired the shot that killed Mrs. Austin, the jury found him accountable for the actions of co-defendant Treshaun Jake, 19, who is set to be tried July 8 for the murder.
In a letter he sent to Difanis earlier this month, Meads claimed that his attorney, James Dedman of Urbana, didn't call witnesses who could have helped his defense. Further, he claimed that Dedman never approached Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark to entertain a plea offer.
"I never planned on taking this case to trail (sic). James Dedman didn't get me a plea. I am deeply and truly sorry for the innocent death of Ms. Austin. I have realized my mistakes and wrong actions I have done but wouldn't want to spend the rest of my life in prison for it," Meads wrote.
"I'm not a bad person and no, I'm not a gangbanger. I know I'm a good and productive citizen that just got caught up in a bad situation and reacted with poor decisions that I didn't realize at the moment would affect my life forever. I've done alot of dumb things in my life but this by far sums up to be the dumbest," he wrote.
Difanis asked Dedman if he had discussed his client's wishes with him prior to trial.
"We discussed what he wanted to do and trial was the only thing he wanted to do," Dedman responded.
Difanis then asked Clark if she ever extended a negotiated plea agreement as a possibility to Dedman.
"No," she said.
Meads faces 20 to 60 years in prison for his role in Mrs. Austin's death.