URBANA — A Champaign man who admitted robbing a man who was later killed was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison.
With credit for two years and three months already served in the county jail, Dearion Jenkins, 23, could be free in about two more years.
Judge Heidi Ladd said she was "constrained by the facts presented by the state" in sentencing Jenkins, who pleaded guilty in September to armed robbery for the July 5, 2011, holdup of Cedric Mallett, 41.
Mr. Mallett died on July 7, 2011, from a gunshot wound to the back he received two days earlier that bruised a lung, went through his liver and perforated his stomach.
Assistant State's Attorney Dan Clifton agreed to dismiss murder and aggravated robbery charges against Jenkins in return for his plea.
At the time of the plea, Clifton said although the wounded Mr. Mallett said that "Dearion" had a gun on him and that "they" tried to rob him, Clifton did not think that he could prove that Jenkins committed the murder.
Instead, he allowed Jenkins to plead guilty to a charge of armed robbery that alleged that the gun used by Jenkins may have been a BB gun capable of being used as a bludgeon. However, there was nothing in that charge that alleged Mr. Mallett sustained great bodily harm during the holdup. Therefore, Jenkins is eligible for day-for-day good time on his 10-year sentence.
Police never found the weapon used to kill Mr. Mallett.
Initial reports were that Mr. Mallett told police Jenkins asked him for cigarettes and when Mr. Mallett turned around, someone hit him in the head from behind and he felt someone trying to take his wallet before he was shot in the back.
Jenkins maintained that someone else fired the shot that killed Mr. Mallett.
Clifton had agreed at the time of the guilty plea to seek no more than 20 years for Jenkins, who could have been sentenced to as many as 30 years.
On Friday, he asked for the 20 years, saying that Jenkins has been in constant contact with the criminal justice system since he was a teen. Jenkins had prior convictions as a juvenile for unlawful possession with intent to deliver cannabis, and as an adult for misdemeanor possession of cannabis and criminal trespass, as well as several traffic convictions.
Jenkins' attorney, Dan Jackson of Champaign, asked for a sentence in the range of six to eight years, saying Jenkins is young and likely to be rehabilitated.
Jackson had called three family members of Jenkins to testify about his challenging childhood, which featured a father who died of a drug overdose and a drug-addicted mother who left him to fend for himself. The relatives reported seeing positive changes in Jenkins since he's been in jail and said they were willing to support him when he's free from prison.
When it was his turn to talk to the judge, Jenkins never mentioned the armed robbery or Mr. Mallett but told Ladd what it was like to be left alone with no food or heat as a child. He asked for leniency so he can be with his two children.
While expressing sympathy for his difficult childhood, Ladd noted that Jenkins has never been employed, has never been ordered to pay support to the two mothers of his children who receive federal assistance, that he was expelled from middle school, dropped out of high school and has not obtained a GED. She also wondered how he was able to finance his daily cannabis habit and alcohol consumption.
Ladd called the robbery "very serious" and made it clear she was sentencing Jenkins only for robbery.