Bennett says I-74 slingshot case may inspire penalty proposal

Bennett says I-74 slingshot case may inspire penalty proposal

CHAMPAIGN — An area state senator said Wednesday he's considering new legislation to add more teeth to the penalties for certain drive-by crimes.

State Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, said he may introduce legislation this January that would increase the penalties for crimes similar to the recent incidents in which a truck driver allegedly used a slingshot and ball bearings to damage other vehicles as he drove past them.

Kevin Casey of Janesville, Wis., faces charges of aggravated battery to a child under 13, aggravated battery in a public place and two counts of criminal damage to property for his alleged attacks on other vehicles.

Bennett, who — along with state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana — spoke Wednesday at a town hall meeting at Carpenters' Local 243 Hall in Champaign, said he was inspired after talking to Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz.

"I don't think the current statute reflects the seriousness of the crime," Bennett said. "The statute is insufficient for the trouble it is causing for motorists on the interstate."

Bennett said one proposal he is considering would change the vehicular endangerment statute, something often used when people drop objects onto vehicles from an overpass.

"When somebody does something repeatedly, you could have a higher class of felony to penalize that," Bennett said.

Among the penalties Bennett said he is considering are mandatory jail time and consecutive sentencing for multiple offenses.

"When somebody is driving a car and somebody breaks something, whether it be with a slingshot or something else, that person is risking not only the particular car but all the cars on the road," Bennett said.

But the senator's ideas for proposals weren't the only topics of discussion at Wednesday's town hall.

Ammons talked about her role in getting a House bill passed that protects aquifers, including the Mahomet Aquifer.

"When we found out about the Peoples' Gas spill near Mahomet, that was completely unacceptable to me," Ammons said. "We had meetings with People's Gas and the residents of Mahomet to look at where everything broke down when that spill took place. We passed legislation to address when notification is supposed to take place. We made sure that the Mahomet Aquifer Task Force is addressing the relevant issues to protect the aquifer from here on into the future."

And Bennett addressed how the new state budget includes $350 million of additional money for K-12 education as well as more money for the University of Illinois.

"Titles really didn't mean anything in these negotiations," he said. "We started having rank-and-file members, both Republicans and Democrats, both in the House and in the Senate, meeting on a regular basis to get this done.

"We kept hearing that higher education in Illinois is in trouble. We heard from high achieving students from Illinois who went to Indiana, Iowa or Alabama. Alabama doesn't have a lot of people, so when they want their rankings to go up, they find all the kids with a 28 or 30 on the ACT who can't get much financial aid at the UI and give them a full ride at Alabama. We put money into a National Merit-type scholarship program to recognize if we want to keep the best and brightest, we need to be competitive with financial aid."