Champaign man sentenced to 120 years over bank robberies

Champaign man sentenced to 120 years over bank robberies

URBANA — A Champaign man convicted of two bank robberies that occurred in the spring of 2012 was sentenced Tuesday to 120 years in prison.

Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis called Ronald Wilkerson "violent, dangerous and manipulative" and said the public needs to be protected from him.

Difanis imposed the maximum 60 years for each crime and ordered that the sentences be served one after the other.

In May, a Champaign County jury convicted Wilkerson, 44, whose last known address was in the 1500 block of Honeysuckle Lane, of the May 8, 2012, armed robbery of the Central Illinois Credit Union, 2106 W. John St., C, and the May 21, 2012, armed robbery of the Marine Bank, 1001 S. Neil Street.

Testimony at his trial from co-defendant William Terry Jackson, 35, was that Wilkerson was the getaway car driver for those holdups. Jackson and another man, Prentice Taylor, 57, of Urbana, are being prosecuted by federal authorities. Their cases are unresolved.

To aggravate Wilkerson's sentence, Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar called six witnesses to testify about other crimes that Wilkerson had been linked to since 1987.

Assistant Macon County State's Attorney David Spence testified about Wilkerson's 1988 conviction for attempted murder and armed robbery that involved the holdup of a convenience store in Decatur. Two women working there were beaten with lead pipes to the point of unconsciousness, he said. About $1,000 was taken. Wilkerson was sentenced to 40 years in prison and was released in 2007 after serving 20 years.

Lozar also had two women who were working at the Circle K store, 809 W. Green St., U, on Aug. 14, 2009, identify Wilkerson as the man who came in the office where they were working, spray their faces with pepper spray, snatch the bank bag and leave. Both women said they recognized him from having done previous odd jobs at the convenience store.

Although he was charged in that case, the robbery charges were dismissed when Wilkerson was convicted in an unrelated drug case in 2010, a case for which he was ultimately sentenced to probation.

And a woman who said she had a sexual relationship with Wilkerson in the spring of 2012 testified how he came to her Urbana home on May 18, 2012, and forced her to have sex with him and Terry Jackson.

The woman sobbed as she described the men's actions with her despite her protests. She also testified that she ended up pregnant from the encounter, delivered the child, and gave it up for adoption.

Wilkerson was also charged in that case but Lozar dismissed the charge in the wake of Wilkerson's 120-year sentence. Jackson was not charged in that case.

To mitigate Wilkerson's sentence, defense attorney Alfred Ivy had Wilkerson's sister, uncle and the mother of one of his children testify about what a good father he is.

Lozar recommended 90 years for Wilkerson, noting his propensity for "extremely violent" acts. In addition to his criminal convictions, he had a history of drug use and gang affiliation while in prison, Lozar said.

"His life is dedicated to the pursuit of getting better at armed robberies," the prosecutor said.

Ivy asked for a sentence closer to the minimum for Wilkerson, saying he was not directly involved in the bank holdups and that it was the word of a co-defendant, not overwhelming evidence, that led to Wilkerson's convictions.

Wilkerson continued to maintain his innocence, claimed he did not get a fair trial, and also said the woman he had sex with consented to it.

"I'm guilty of being friends with these two guys," he said of Taylor and Jackson. "A wrong has been done to me and I'm begging you to right this wrong and grant me a new trial."

Sections (2):News, Local