Chicago 17-year-old gets 15 years for Rantoul nail-salon robbery

Chicago 17-year-old gets 15 years for Rantoul nail-salon robbery

URBANA — A Chicago teen whose childhood was marked by violence has been sentenced to prison for his role in a Rantoul business robbery last year.

"It took a substantial amount of planning and endangered the well-being of any number of people," Judge Tom Difanis said of the incident for which he sentenced a 17-year-old to 15 years in juvenile prison.

The teen, who will be 18 in two months, cannot be held past his 21st birthday in juvenile prison.

He pleaded guilty last month to the Nov. 9, 2017, aggravated robbery of Fashion Nails, 1279 E. Grove Ave., Rantoul.

State's Attorney Julia Rietz said the youth and another male teen entered the business just before 1 p.m. that day, damaged the store's surveillance system, robbed two women of their cellphones and took about $4,500 cash from the business.

They fled in a waiting car driven by a third teen at speeds of 80 to 100 mph through the village, Rietz said.

Deciding it was too dangerous to chase them, police ended the pursuit and alerted other agencies.

Illinois State Police later spotted the car, which was registered to the teen being sentenced Monday, and followed it to a neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, where it crashed. One youth stayed in the car. He pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in February and was sentenced to probation.

The third teen was not found. Rietz said the $4,500 was found in the passenger door compartment. No gun was ever found.

Trying to persuade Difanis to consider probation for her client, Assistant Public Defender Amanda Riess had his mother testify.

The mother wept as she told the judge he admitted to her he robbed the business "to help me and his sister with bills and to buy us things."

The mother testified she had recently been fired from a job she had for seven years and her son was concerned about how the family would live. She said her son helps with the care of his blind 15-year-old sister and around the house.

"He's a very kind, smart, intelligent, sweet boy," she said, adding that since his release from detention a month ago, he hardly leaves the house except for school.

On cross-examination by Rietz, the mother admitted that her son had been arrested for robbery "a number of times" by Chicago police prior to her losing her job, although there were no records from Cook County that the youth had ever been convicted.

The mother said that her son had lost another sister to gang violence and had a close friend "shot up" which caused him to suffer from depression and stress and "had him doing things he wasn't supposed to do."

Rietz argued for prison, urging the judge not to let the teen use his sister's disability or his mother's unemployment as excuses to rob people.

Riess argued that the teen had taken responsibility for his actions and that prior to his arrest for the Rantoul robbery, he had never been detained for more than a day or two. To send him to juvenile prison for his first conviction, she said, was "too extreme."

Difanis said he would withhold comment on Cook County's apparently flawed juvenile justice system. However, he called the youth's activity in Rantoul an "incredibly serious crime."

"A fair amount of planning went into this. They came down here and chose that place and got away with a substantial amount of money," he said, adding that the high-speed flight and crash in Chicago also endangered several people.

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