URBANA — A Champaign man found to have been responsible for the July 4, 2012, murder of a woman shot in crossfire between two gangs was sentenced Monday to 50 years in the penitentiary.
Anthony Meads, 21, whose last known address was in the 200 block of West Church Street, Champaign, was convicted by a jury in May of the first-degree murder of Desirae Austin, 20, of Champaign. He could have received up to 60 years.
The 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. Although Meads was not believed to have fired the fatal shot, the jury found him accountable for the actions of co-defendant Treshaun Jake, 20, of Danville, whose case has been continued to Sept. 17.
"Society must not and will not tolerate this kind of behavior," said Judge Tom Difanis in imposing the sentence. He said 45 shell casings were found at the scene and that it was a miracle that no one else was killed.
Difanis had initially set Meads' sentencing hearing for late June but it was continued when Meads fired Jim Dedman, his privately retained attorney.
Meads claimed that Dedman was ineffective by not getting him a plea offer. However, Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark said she never extended a negotiated plea agreement to Dedman for Meads and Dedman told Difanis that Meads' only expressed desire was to go to trial. Difanis then appointed the public defender's office to represent Meads.
Meads' only criminal history was a juvenile adjudication for resisting or obstructing a peace officer, according to court records.
Nine members of Mrs. Austin's family, including her husband, submitted letters to the judge saying how much the mother of two would be missed.
Meads told the family in the courtroom on Monday that he was truly sorry for what happened.
"It was never my intention for anyone to get hurt," he said.