PAXTON — Before being sentenced Monday to 17 years in prison for second-degree murder, Ryan A. Nibbe read a rambling statement in which he claimed Ford County State's Attorney Matt Fitton had witnesses lie on the stand to secure a conviction and boost his resume as a candidate for the judgeship.
"Votes, votes, votes — that's all he cares about," Nibbe said in his 10-minute rant. "The trial was a mockery of the justice system."
Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Nibbe, whose last known address was in Gibson City, made no apologies for throwing the punch that caused the death of 44-year-old Gibson City resident Timothy Robertson last summer.
"I am not a murderer, no matter what your papers say," Nibbe said. "If I had to do it all over again, I would not change a thing."
Judge Paul Lawrence said Nibbe will be required to serve at least half of his 17-year sentence, with credit for 207 days already served at the Ford County Jail.
Nibbe had faced up to 20 years in prison, but Lawrence opted not to give the maximum term because of the disputed circumstances of the crime — specifically, Nibbe's claim that he acted in self-defense.
Fitton, who argued for a 20-year sentence, noted Nibbe's extensive criminal history as an adult, dating back to 1997, as well as his delinquency as a juvenile.
Fitton said Nibbe has five prior prison sentences as a result of eight felony convictions and 12 misdemeanor convictions, including several for violent crimes. At the time of his most recent crime, Nibbe was on parole from the Illinois Department of Corrections stemming from an aggravated battery conviction in Macon County, Fitton added.
Fitton also noted that Nibbe continues to show no remorse for his actions and still blames Mr. Robertson for the physical altercation that took place on the sidewalk outside a Gibson City apartment building last summer.
"If ever there was a candidate (for prison) who showed less remorse, blamed other people and who has the criminal history he does ..." Fitton said.
Nibbe's attorney, David Rumley of Bloomington, asked for a prison term no greater than 10 years.
Lawrence heard tearful testimony from Mr. Robertson's ex-wife, Angie Sieving, and then-girlfriend, Beth Bridgwater, about the effect Mr. Robertson's death has had on them and their families.
"We loved him. We loved him so, so much. I never stopped loving him," said Sieving, who had three children with Mr. Robertson: Jake, 21, Marisa, 19, and Sienna, 15.
Sieving said Mr. Robertson's death has had a "profound effect" on Jake, and Marisa has quit her job and left college, while Sienna "is doing everything she can to act like this didn't happen."
"We just take each day at a time," Sieving said.
Bridgwater said she has trouble sleeping and is emotionally "lost" as a result of Mr. Robertson's death.
"Tim was the love of my life," Bridgwater said.
Nibbe sat silently and nodded throughout their testimony, as to acknowledge he understood their hardship. But when Nibbe read his statement minutes later, he made no apologies to the dozens of Mr. Robertson's friends and family members in the courtroom.
"The truth is, I feel their pain, but I do not feel I am the source (of that pain)," Nibbe said, stressing that his actions were in self-defense.
During his two-day trial in January, Nibbe testified that he struck Mr. Robertson only after telling him to leave and after Mr. Robertson continued to walk toward him on the sidewalk.
"He came at me. So stop blaming me. ... I ask myself and God every day why he did not listen," Nibbe said.
Nibbe said he was "extremely sorry" that three children lost their father due to Mr. Robertson's "poor choice."
Nibbe said he feels "so cheated and down" that he was convicted of a crime he claims he did not commit. He said he only punched Mr. Robertson because he felt threatened and was in fear for the safety of two women in the apartment upstairs.
"I feel I saved lives, when you convicted me of taking one," Nibbe said.
Nibbe said he believes Fitton set him up for a conviction for political gain. Nibbe claimed the prosecution's witnesses lied and portrayed him as a "monster" through irrelevant testimony.
Fitton is running against Paxton attorney Ellen Lee for the Ford County circuit judge's post in the March 18 Republican primary.
"I'm not responding to the ramblings of the defendant, because, frankly, they're not accurate," Fitton said in court.