Judge 'going to take a chance' on man who pleads in drug case
URBANA — A Champaign County judge Wednesday told Ezekiel Short that prison was the appropriate sentence for him given his "appalling" criminal record but said she was willing to give him another chance.
Judge Heidi Ladd sentenced him to 30 months of probation and fined him $1,000 for possession of fewer than 15 grams of cocaine.
Short, 31, of the 1400 block of Cambridge Drive, pleaded guilty in January to that offense, admitting he had the drug in a car that Champaign police stopped on April 26, 2012. Short was a passenger in a car that police stopped in connection with an unrelated crime. Police found about four grams of cocaine, a digital scale, and packaging materials in a bag under his seat. Short, who was unemployed at the time, also had $910 on him.
Assistant State's Attorney Dan Clifton sought a prison sentence for Short and presented Judge Heidi Ladd with evidence that Short, while out on bond for the April 2012 offense, was caught with cocaine in his car on Feb. 10, 2013.
Clifton noted that this conviction was Short's ninth felony as an adult on top of several misdemeanors. Additionally, the 2012 drug possession happened while Short was on parole for a 2007 residential burglary conviction, he said.
But Dan Jackson, Short's Champaign attorney, argued that Short had turned his life around and has been working double shifts at a restaurant job for the last year and has gotten away from undesirable associates.
"He has seen where he has to go with his life. He has made changes," Jackson said.
Short told the judge he was acting as a mentor for a boy who was in the courtroom, crying as he listened to the prosecutor's prison recommendation.
"I know I've done a lot of wrong in my life. I'm trying to show him he can't make the decisions I've made," said Short, who said he is now paying bills and supporting his three children.
Ladd urged Short to be honest with himself about his cannabis consumption and alcohol use.
"Cannabis and substance abuse are hovering around many of these convictions. You are your own worst enemy. Until you deal with your substance abuse problems, you'll continue to dig a hole you can't get out of," Ladd said.
"I'm going to take a chance on you," she said. "No dirty drops. No missed appointments. I'll give you a chance to build on what you say."