URBANA — A Rantoul man with nine felony convictions and numerous opportunities to get his drug addiction under control has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his latest convictions.
"The court has to say that it's not open season on other people's property. At some point, the public has a right to be protected," Champaign County Judge Heidi Ladd said as she sentenced Michael Mackey.
The 42-year-old pleaded guilty in June to burglary and driving under the influence of alcohol, admitting that he entered a Champaign police "bait" car, in a parking deck on East Daniel Street, and stole laptop computers that police had left there, and that on a separate occasion he drove when his blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent.
Although Mackey could have been sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison, Assistant State's Attorney Matt Banach agreed to cap his recommendation at 20 years.
The burglary happened Nov. 22, 2012, when Mackey was on parole for an aggravated robbery conviction from Winnebago County. The DUI happened April 13 in Rantoul.
To aggravate his sentence, Banach had Champaign police Officer William Killin testify about a high-speed chase that Mackey led him on May 28. Banach also played for the judge about five minutes worth of hair-raising video taken by Killin's squad car camera as he pursued Mackey.
Killin said police were watching Mackey that day — he was a suspect in two robberies earlier in the month — and were going to arrest him on a parole violation. When Killin tried to stop Mackey on University Avenue near Sixth Street in Champaign about 5:45 p.m., Mackey sped off to the south, then turned back to the west and headed through downtown Champaign, then north on Market Street to Interstate 57.
Killin testified the chase reached speeds of 80 to 90 mph in the city and up to 105 on the interstate. Mackey disregarded several stop signs and traffic signals in town and nearly lost control of his car on the ramp onto I-57 from Market Street and again when he left I-57 at Illinois 9 in Paxton. Killin abandoned the pursuit when Mackey went into the Ford County seat.
Mackey was arrested in Paxton three days later.
In his own defense, Mackey said his life of crime started when he was about 24 following the deaths of his mother to alcoholism and his brother six months later to testicular cancer.
"The only thing that made me happy was drugs," he said, adding that he was using crack cocaine daily during the 1990s when he wasn't incarcerated.
He said he would do well in prison then, when free, relapse into drug use and crime to support it.
In January 2011, Mackey said, he landed a good job at Rantoul Foods, which he kept for more than two years before turning to gambling.
On the day he stole the laptop computers from the bait car, Mackey had two pairs of gloves on him and a screwdriver. But he told Ladd he was there at 3 a.m. to give a co-worker a ride.
"I don't know what I was thinking," he said of the theft.
And as for the flight from Killin, Mackey said he "panicked" and didn't want to go back to jail.
"There's no excuse for it. I'm just thankful I didn't hit anyone," he said.
Banach urged the judge to impose the 20 years, calling Mackey's behavior over time "more invasive and dangerous."
"He has proven himself incapable of controlling his behavior and is putting others at risk," he said.
Mackey's attorney, Walter Ding of Champaign, asked the judge to consider a nine-year sentence, saying that Mackey had been gainfully employed and had never been violent.
But Ladd said Mackey had received every chance the justice system had to offer — from probation to jail to prison to drug treatment — and none had worked.
"Watching the chase was instructive. At every intersection, you're cringing. It's only through the luck of the situation that no one was hit or struck. But all those people were put at risk, and Mr. Mackey didn't care. That's frightening," she said, saying a long sentence was needed to deter him.