DANVILLE — Former NBA player Keon Clark was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to weapons and driving under the influence charges in two separate cases.
"I, uh, did a lot of stuff in my past," Clark said at his plea hearing in Vermilion County Circuit Court, tears streaming down his face. "I have to own up to it."
The 38-year-old Danville native faced 10 weapons, drugs and driving-related charges stemming from one 2012 case and four 2013 cases.
Edgar County Circuit Judge Matthew Sullivan, who heard the case after Vermilion County judges recused themselves, signed off on Clark's agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to one count of unlawful possession/use of a firearm by a felon/parole in the 2012 case and one count of aggravated DUI/license suspended or revoked in his most recent 2013 case and drop the other felony and traffic charges.
Sullivan sentenced Clark to four years in the Illinois Department of Correction on each count. The terms must be served consecutively.
Clark was credited with having served 122 days behind bars on one count and 16 days on the other. Vermilion County Assistant State's Attorney Sandy Lawlyes, who recommended the two consecutive four-year terms, has said that Clark will have to serve 50 percent of his sentence.
Both of Clark's attorneys — Jim Martinkus of Champaign and Alfred D. Ivy III of Urbana — asked the judge to recommend that Clark be placed at a Department of Corrections-run drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility outside of Chicago so he can continue receiving substance abuse treatment.
"I think that would serve the interest of the public as well as Mr. Clark himself," Martinkus said. Following the hearing, he said he hoped treatment would "cure him of his addiction, which is the cause of most of his troubles."
At the onset of the hearing, Clark, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, smiled and waved to a dozen or so supporters — including his mother, Cynthia Brown — who crowded into the small courtroom. He sat quietly at the defendant's table while the lawyers discussed details of the agreement and sentence.
Upon questioning by Sullivan, Clark said he understood the terms, despite having taken medicine for anxiety, depression and seizures. He agreed to waive his right to both a jury and bench trial and enter a guilty plea to the two amended charges.
"I wish to plead not guilty, but in accepting the plea, I will plead guilty," Clark said.
Earlier, he said he would accept the deal rather than take his chances with a trial, and because of "the wreckage of my past."
If the cases had gone to trial, Lawlyes said she would put a Vermilion County sheriff's deputy on the stand who would testify that on June 27, 2012, the deputy and a parole agent searched Clark's home at 310 Poland Road, Danville, and found three loaded magazine rounds in a basement bedroom and a firearm with one round in the chamber hidden behind a clock in the living room.
Lawlyes also said another deputy would testify that on Aug. 4, he was called a single-car crash at 214 Poland Road, where the driver had hit a telephone pole and flipped the car on its hood. She said Clark, the driver, was taken to the hospital.
"He stated he had too many beers," Lawyles said, reading a police report. She said the report also noted Clark had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech and demonstrated erratic behavior, and he refused to give blood and urine samples to check for alcohol.
Before sentencing, Sullivan gave Clark a chance to address the court. Clark asked to address the audience, then stood to face his mother and fellow members of the Carter Metropolitan Community Church in Danville.
"You heard I flipped a car," he said, his voice choked with emotion. "I (got) stitches — 13 to be exact, and I walked away from it. It could've been a lot worse. It's going to be a lot better."