URBANA — Two mothers sobbed while locked in an embrace in a Champaign County courtroom Thursday morning.
One's son was headed to prison for having raped the other's son.
At the conclusion of an emotion-packed hourlong hearing, Judge Heidi Ladd sentenced Jamare Martin, 18, to 23 years in prison for predatory criminal sexual assault of a child.
He had pleaded guilty to the crime in September with a promise from Assistant State's Attorney Scott Bennett that the state wouldn't seek more than 30 years in prison for him. Martin could have received 60 years.
"If you prey on a child, you will pay with your freedom," said Ladd, stressing that the protection of the public was her primary concern in sentencing Martin. "There is no reason why he did this. That's what makes him so dangerous."
The judge had heard testimony about the Champaign teen's background, which featured medical problems as a young child from being born prematurely and an absent biological father.
After being expelled from Champaign Central High School about a year ago for an incident involving a toy gun at school, Martin was having difficulty getting along with his mother and was not attending his alternative school regularly.
Rhonda Winston said a relative in Rantoul allowed Martin to live with her in an attempt to get his life in order.
The sex assault occurred on the evening of Oct. 28, 2012, when Martin was caring for that other woman's young son. She had asked Martin to baby-sit while she was out.
Ladd heard a detailed description of the assault, which the mother discovered when she returned home, finding her son in his bedroom in bed where the assault had occurred. He told his mother what Martin had done to him and Rantoul police were contacted immediately.
Martin, who had no previous convictions of any kind, confessed to police what he had done and has been in jail ever since.
Bennett argued for a 30-year sentence for Martin while Assistant Public Defender Amanda Riess asked for something nearer the six-year minimum.
The soft-spoken, slight teen then rose and looked at the victim's mother, apologizing. When he did that, Martin's mother got out of her seat and hugged the victim's mother as they sobbed together. Other family members joined in the embrace as Martin continued to talk to the judge.
"I do take responsibility for my actions. I am sorry. I know I'm not a bad kid but what I did is bad," Martin said. "I know this won't happen again. The only thing I can say is I'm sorry."
Ladd asked the spectators to return to their seats so she could deliver the sentence.
While calling Martin's childhood "disappointing," she said it was far from the worst she had seen. She noted that he had a loving and supportive mother as well as a male father-figure in his life for several years who had dated his mother.
She then went on to describe the physical and mental trauma to the child victim, who continues to have nightmares. She said Martin even told police that the child repeatedly told him to stop and tried to wiggle away. After the assault, Martin told the child not to tell anyone what had happened.
"Every child should be able to feel safe and secure in their own bed at home," she said. "That crime crosses every boundary."
Under truth-in-sentencing, Martin will have to serve at least 19-1/2 years of the sentence. He was given credit for a year already served in jail.