Man sentenced to 65 years for murder of Champaign woman

URBANA — Treshaun Jake will be an old man by the time he's released from prison for taking the life of a 20-year-old woman hit by errant gunfire more than a year ago.

On Thursday, Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis sentenced the 20-year-old man to 65 years in prison for the July 4, 2012, first-degree murder of Desirae Austin, 20, of Champaign. She was hit by gunfire intended for other men at whom Jake was firing.

In imposing a sentence of 10 years less than he could have, Difanis said the message of deterrence needed to be heard by others like Jake who taunt the community with gunplay.

"I'm talking about young people possessing weapons, and to make it worse, firing them indiscriminately at what they perceive to be some slight," said Difanis.

"There were dozens of rounds fired that night. An innocent victim was killed. It's absolutely amazing no one else was killed," Difanis said.

Jake, whose last known address was in Danville, and co-defendant Anthony Meads, 22, of Champaign, were found to have fired at brothers Johnnie and Rajon Campbell in the Garden Hills neighborhood of north Champaign on that night after the fireworks display at Parkland College had finished. Several people were out in the street near the intersection of Thornton Drive and Cruising Lane celebrating the national holiday when the violence erupted.

Mrs. Austin, a wife and mother of two children, now ages 2 and 4, was hit once in the chest and died on the street.

Both Meads and Jake were convicted by juries of her murder. Meads was sentenced in August to 50 years in prison.

Both maintained their innocence.

"I cooperated with police as much as I could that night she was killed," said Jake. "I gave them all I knew. I let them dust me for gunpowder. I gave them DNA and I didn't have to. I never shot a gun that night."

The lengthy sentence came after Difanis considered 10 letters from family members of Mrs. Austin talking about the devastating effects her death has had on them.

Tasha Hughes, her cousin, looked directly at Jake as she talked of the crushing grief he caused so many by his "act of stupidity and great foolishness."

Mrs. Austin's husband, James Austin, wrote to the judge of his "extreme anger" and "trouble communicating with others" in the wake of his wife's death. He said he was being forced to leave the Army to care for his children, which was affecting his family's financial stability.

Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark had also presented the judge with evidence showing that Jake has been a serious discipline problem for the staff at the Champaign County Jail since he was admitted there Aug. 29, 2012.

Jail employee Staci Sherrick testified that Jake has been written up 33 times while jailed for such indiscretions as repeatedly flooding his cell, getting in physical fights with other inmates, tampering with locks, covering his cell light, disobeying orders and using vulgar language. One of the fights resulted in another inmate going to the hospital, Sherrick said.

Sgt. Michael Johnson of the jail testified that the flooding, which happened at least 10 times, causes security risks when other inmates have to be removed from their cells. Johnson said Jake had also threatened to hurt him. He said Jake has been in segregation, meaning 23 hours a day in his cell, for more than a third of his time since being jailed due to his bad behavior.

Arguing for the maximum sentence of 75 years, Clark noted that Jake is a gang member who was expelled from high school for fighting and drug use. She also pointed to prior convictions he had as a juvenile for criminal damage to property and as an adult for attempted residential burglary.

"The defendant took part in a gun battle in the middle of the street where women and children and people were celebrating the Fourth of July," said Clark. "This defendant found it appropriate to fire a gun into this crowd of people."

"This community deserves to be rid of him," she said.

But Jake's attorney, Harvey Welch of Urbana, said it wasn't fair to equate the crime to one where a person was lying in wait for a victim and planned to kill.

"The injury and death was not purposeful conduct" on his client's part, he said, asking for a sentence closer to the 35-year minimum.

Editor's note: This case was the first use of cameras in a Champaign County courtroom after that was approved by the Illinois Supreme Court. 

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thesimpleman wrote on December 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm

thnk you

Dann001 wrote on December 13, 2013 at 1:12 am

When I first saw the picture, I thought it was a female. Could you make yourself look any more stupid? However that really doesn't matter. He is a typical Punk Gangbanger who has no respect for anyones life. His parents did a fine job of raising him to be a productive member of society, didn't they? Illinois needs to re-enact the death penalty for people like this!

Danvillain wrote on December 14, 2013 at 12:12 am

No I'm sure his "parents" did not do a good job raising him.  Your welfare check did.  Keeping working! Millions on welfare depend on you!!

twanette wrote on December 16, 2013 at 6:12 pm

his parents did a good job he wasnt on welfare the system failed him like they do all black men!!!!!

ballarific wrote on December 13, 2013 at 2:12 am

Every book shouldn't be judged by its cover.. If you could not take the time from your busy day to actually attend the court hearing, you are only speculating the type of young man Tre'shaun is!

 

A.B.

 

LocalTownie wrote on December 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

One doesn't need to see his picture, or attend a court hearing to know what kind of young man he is. He's been tried, convicted, and sentenced as a murderer. He took the life of another man's wife and a mother. Enough said.

Danvillain wrote on December 14, 2013 at 12:12 am

Spoken like a true Kenesha Williams! Good job! (Google Kiwane Carrington Kenesha Williams $500,000 wrongful death if my comment left you scratching your head)

 

 

 

Local Yocal wrote on December 15, 2013 at 3:12 am
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Are you equating Kiwane Carrington with Treshaun Jake? Please tell us how those two individuals are the same?

And the court settlement in the Carrington case was for $220,000, just less than what the City of Champaign can settle for and still have their insurance company cover the entire tab. Compared to Provena's settlement for $12 million after a doctor caused permanent brain damage to a pregnant mother, not a bad deal.

tattoo58 wrote on December 13, 2013 at 6:12 am

What a piece of human debris..from the shooting to the jailhouse antics, put it out of our misery!

twanette wrote on December 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm

What u need to do is get the true facts and mine ur own business this young man is innocent! ! Enough said

acylum wrote on December 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm

#1.  Not innocent according to the jury


#2.  If the facts of the case weren't true, then his lawyer needed to present and prove them.  There is an appeal process to do so again.


#3.  Murder is a state crime.  While there was a victim who was killed, it it still a crime against everyone.  That makes it the business of everyone.  That is why they allow the case to be reported on and allow the general public to come to the trial.


Far from enough said.

twanette wrote on December 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm

What u need to do is get the true facts and mine ur own business this young man is innocent! ! Enough said

Local Yocal wrote on December 13, 2013 at 8:12 am
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Okay, since we're going to spend $1.6 million dollars on housing Jake until he's 75 years old, and another $million to house Meads until he's in his 60's, what part of The News-Gazette scraps below don't we understand? What parts of this book cover is not true?

Prosecutor Lindsey Clark said that Jake is a gang member who was expelled from high school for fighting and drug use. She also pointed to prior convictions he had as a juvenile for criminal damage to property. Jake was on probation for a 2010 attempted residential burglary at the time of his arrest for the murder of Desirae Austin. Anthony Meads had a juvenile conviction for resisting arrest.

[Jake and Anthony Meads] had been in the Vermilion County Jail on unlawful use of weapons charges stemming from their Aug. 16, 2012 arrests by the Vermilion County Sheriff's Department. Champaign police then sought a warrant for their arrest for the July 4, 2012 murder of Desirae Austin.

Both maintained their innocence [in the shooting of Desirae Austin on July 4, 2012.]

"I cooperated with police as much as I could that night she was killed," said Jake. "I gave them all I knew. I let them dust me for gunpowder. I gave them DNA and I didn't have to. I never shot a gun that night."

Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark, who prosecuted the pair, said no witnesses have come forward to say they actually saw Mrs. Austin get shot.

Assistant State's Attorney Scott Bennett told Judge Richard Klaus that Meads and Jake had met up with brothers Rajon Campbell, 22, and Johnnie Campbell, 20, both of Champaign, in the middle of Cruising Lane and that the men all exchanged words. Bennett said Jake displayed a pistol, prompting the Campbell brothers to back up then run. As they ran, Jake first fired the gun in the air then in the direction of the Campbells, according to Bennett. Bennett said police learned that Meads had a shotgun and also took off running in the direction of the Campbells, firing the shotgun into the air.

"There were dozens of rounds fired that night," Judge Difanis said. He said 45 shell casings were found at the scene and that it was a miracle that no one else was killed.

"The direction that Jake was shooting would have been in the direction of where Mrs. Austin was standing and the Campbells were running toward where she stood," Clark said. "No one ever saw her hit, but they see her lying on the ground after."

Tiffany Dishman testified that she was standing over Desirae Austin in the intersection of Thornton Drive and Cruising Lane moments after Mrs. Austin fell to the ground, when Meads came up to her and another woman and asked which way Johnnie and Rajon Campbell had gone. Dishman said she was on the phone getting help for Mrs. Austin when Meads ran up to her "with a big old rifle pointed at me" and demanded to know where the brothers had gone. Dishman said Meads then went down the street and fired at least two or three more shots from the shotgun.

On cross-examination, Dishman admitted that she did not initially tell police about Meads having a shotgun because no one asked her specifically about that. It was about four days later, under questioning by a detective, that she volunteered that information, she said.

In earlier testimony, other witnesses said that Jake fired the handgun at Johnnie Campbell, 21, and his brother, Rajon Campbell, 23, when Mrs. Austin went down.

Brothers Johnnie Campbell, 21, and Rajon Campbell, 24, both testified [in court] that they saw Jake take his shirt off as if he were going to fight them that night but then saw him with a handgun. The Campbell brothers are known to police. Both were acquitted in a 2009 aggravated criminal sexual assault case where a 16-year-old girl was gang-raped in a detached garage of the Campbells' Champaign home. Rajon Campell has other misdemeanor convictions for domestic battery, resisting a peace officer and criminal trespass while Johnnie Campbell has a 2010 robbery conviction.

Johnnie Campbell, 21, testified an argument with his girlfriend prompted the dispute between him and Jake. Campbell said the girlfriend's sister mistakenly assumed he was going to hurt the girlfriend and summoned Jake, who acted as if he was going to fight Campbell in the street. That prompted Johnnie Campbell to get help from his brother Rajon Campbell, 23, who was also in the neighborhood. The Campbell brothers said they approached Jake but decided to retreat. "We turned to leave and heard someone say, 'Shoot at them' and we hid behind the front of a truck on the street," said Rajon Campbell. Johnnie Campell said "there were a whole bunch of shots" whizzing past and when the firing ceased, he and his brother ran into an aunt's home on Thornton Drive. Although they did not see Mrs. Austin get shot, they saw her on the ground. Johnnie Campbell, who said he knew Meads since middle school, said he did not see Meads that night and thought Jake had done all the shooting. Rajon Campbell said he did not know Meads.

Officers Phillip McDonald and Marshall Henry said after Mrs. Austin was taken away in an ambulance, they tried — unsuccessfully — to get witnesses to tell them who she was or what they had seen. McDonald, the first officer to assist Mrs. Austin, said Meads approached him crying, wondering if the victim was his sister. McDonald said based on the description Meads gave him, McDonald told him it was not his sister. Henry testified that Meads was standing in the driveway at 1607 Cruising Lane when Meads flagged him down wanting to know who was shot. Jake and another man were also in that driveway. As Meads turned, Henry said he heard a spent shell casing being kicked and quickly realized that there were several spent casings in the driveway, leading him and other officers to order the men not to move. Another officer, Corey Phenicie, testified that he felt a bulge in Meads' waistband and believing it was a handgun, tackled Meads. Phenicie confirmed it was a loaded .45-caliber handgun in Meads' waistband.

Although interviewed that night, Meads and Jake were not held by police.

Meads told police that the gun found in his waistband minutes after her shooting was one he had found in the neighborhood. He also found a shotgun in the same Garden Hills neighborhood in a recorded statement that Meads gave to a police detective Morris the day after the shooting. Morris said Meads never told him who shot Mrs. Austin but gave him the nicknames of three men he believed to be involved. Morris testified he interviewed 22 people and never found any of those men or anyone who even knew people by those nicknames. The detective said Meads explained to him that "tensions were high in the neighborhood and people were acting stupidly." There was an ongoing conflict between members of the Gangster Disciples and the Black Peace Stones gangs, Meads said, and the Gangster Disciples had pushed the Peace Stones out of the neighborhood to the west by shooting at them that night. Morris said Meads denied that he and Jake were members of the Gangster Disciples but admitted being affiliated with them.    
Morris said Meads told him that another man had entered the yard at 1607 Cruising Lane and was shooting at them. Meads said he clubbed the man with a branch and put the shotgun that the man had in the trunk of his own car. Police later recovered it.Meads claimed he found the loaded .45-caliber gun which police later took from his waistband on the ground in the 1600 block of Cruising Lane.

A state crime lab analyst said the projectile taken from Mrs. Austin's body and another dug out of the vehicle that the Campbell brothers hid behind as the bullets were flying came from the handgun that Meads had in his waistband. Several of the spent shell casings found in the driveway where Meads and Jake were, also came from that gun.

In a letter he sent to Difanis, Meads claimed that his attorney, James Dedman of Urbana, didn't call witnesses who could have helped his defense. Further, he claimed that Dedman never approached Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark to entertain a plea offer. "I never planned on taking this case to trial. James Dedman didn't get me a plea. I am deeply and truly sorry for the innocent death of Ms. Austin. I have realized my mistakes and wrong actions I have done but wouldn't want to spend the rest of my life in prison for it," Meads wrote."I'm not a bad person and no, I'm not a gangbanger. I know I'm a good and productive citizen that just got caught up in a bad situation and reacted with poor decisions that I didn't realize at the moment would affect my life forever. I've done alot of dumb things in my life but this by far sums up to be the dumbest," he wrote. Difanis asked Dedman if he had discussed his client's wishes with him prior to trial. "We discussed what he wanted to do and trial was the only thing he wanted to do," Dedman responded. Difanis then asked Clark if she ever extended a negotiated plea agreement as a possibility to Dedman. "No," she said. Meads told the family in the courtroom that he was truly sorry for what happened. "It was never my intention for anyone to get hurt," he said.

Jail employee Staci Sherrick testified that Jake has been written up 33 times while jailed for such indiscretions as repeatedly flooding his cell, getting in physical fights with other inmates, tampering with locks, covering his cell light, disobeying orders and using vulgar language. One of the fights resulted in another inmate going to the hospital, Sherrick said.

Sgt. Michael Johnson of the jail testified that the flooding, which happened at least 10 times, causes security risks when other inmates have to be removed from their cells. Johnson said Jake had also threatened to hurt him. He said Jake has been in segregation, meaning 23 hours a day in his cell, for more than a third of his time since being jailed due to his bad behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

twanette wrote on December 16, 2013 at 6:12 pm

#fact one every witness for the state lied  # fact two the police said they could not place the gun in his hand !!!! #fact three he had a witness place him on mattis at the time of the murder!!#fact four the paper is not bible they put what the state wants the public to hear and to you others whos trying to comment in a bad way his parents were never on welfare and when he wins his appeal and let go like he should be any way i hope you have enough nerve to comment then and he was in jail not a beauty salon when u talking about his hair u all that comment in a negative way are a bunch of losers anyway put your self in an innocent mans shoes a black one!!

Local Yocal wrote on December 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm
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"#fact one every witness for the state lied"

So are you saying, .....that In earlier testimony, other witnesses said that Jake fired the handgun at Johnnie Campbell, 21, and his brother, Rajon Campbell, 23, when Mrs. Austin went down. Are you saying that these unidentified "other witnesses" [why aren't they named, Mary Schenk? Did they have criminal records too?] were lying?

Brothers Johnnie Campbell, 21, and Rajon Campbell, 24, both testified [in court] that they saw Jake take his shirt off as if he were going to fight them that night but then saw him with a handgun.  Campbell said the girlfriend's sister mistakenly assumed he was going to hurt the girlfriend and summoned Jake, who acted as if he was going to fight Campbell in the street. The Campbell brothers said they approached Jake but decided to retreat.
Champaign Police Officers Phillip McDonald and Marshall Henry said after Mrs. Austin was taken away in an ambulance, ...McDonald said...Jake and another man were also in that driveway. As Meads turned, Henry said he heard a spent shell casing being kicked and quickly realized that there were several spent casings in the driveway, leading him and other officers to order the men not to move. Although interviewed that night, Meads and Jake were not held by police. Are you saying the Campbell brothers and the police officers are lying?

"# fact two the police said they could not place the gun in his hand !!!!"

Another officer, Corey Phenicie, testified that he felt a bulge in Meads' waistband and believing it was a handgun, tackled Meads. Phenicie confirmed it was a loaded .45-caliber handgun in Meads' waistband. Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark, who prosecuted the pair, said no witnesses have come forward to say they actually saw Mrs. Austin get shot.
"I cooperated with police as much as I could that night she was killed," said Jake. "I gave them all I knew. I let them dust me for gunpowder. I gave them DNA and I didn't have to. I never shot a gun that night." It would appear there is none of Jake's fingerprints on the gun, no gunpowder on Jake, and no other witnesses that corroborate the brothers Campbell story that they saw Jake with a handgun. Jake's co-defendant, Meads, never testified Jake fired the gun Meads was allegedly hiding in a waistband.

"#fact three he had a witness place him on mattis at the time of the murder!!" Court records indicate there are numerous subpoenas served where the person subpoenaed was not found, (a hallmark of any trial handled by Welch: last-minute subpoenas) but why would Jake let the trial go on without this alibi witness, and how was Jake discovered so quickly at the scene after the murder? Why did the witness who knows Jake's whereabouts at the EXACT time of the shooting remain silent and allow Jake to go to prison for 65 years, and why now would they come forward on appeal?

"#fact four the paper is not bible they put what the state wants the public to hear..."

That part I would agree with you on, but what you are saying is the real killer of Desirae Austin is still loose among us. None of this explains why both Meads and Jake were found with more weapons in Vermillion County shortly after the murder.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on December 17, 2013 at 7:12 am
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Let me guess....he was framed for his previous convictions too, right?  It was also someone else's fault that he was a gang member, I bet.

Sounds like you are a friend or family.  With people like you around him, validating him and making excuses for his idiotic and destructive behavior, it's no wonder he's kept going further down the drain with his life choices.

The criminal justice system unjustly screws over a lot of people.  This gangbanging piece of crap is not one of them.  He is going where he belongs, and for a long time. Good luck with that appeal.

twanette wrote on December 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm

no hes was not framed in his others crimes im sure this is diffferent he is not a gang member of any kind nobody is making excuses for him u talk like u know him and u r white i know for sure im done talking enough said from me  and thanks for the luck god bless you !!!

twanette wrote on December 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm

to all u racist pigs u want all black men in jail innocent or not jake is innocent point blank!