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URBANA — A 14-year-old Champaign youth who admitted his roles in setting a fire at a Campustown apartment and a mugging has been sentenced to 15 years in juvenile prison.

Judge Tom Difanis on Friday observed that the teen had an “extensive” criminal history, having served both community-based and prior Department of Juvenile Justice sentences.

He "can't even come close to the basic tenet of probation or parole: Don’t commit further crimes,” Difanis said.

In juvenile prison, the teen cannot be held past his 21st birthday.

He pleaded guilty July 1 to residential arson, admitting that on June 8, he and a 15-year-old Urbana boy set a fire in a garbage tote at the back of 509 E. Green St., C, that spread to the building’s electrical meters. The other teen also pleaded guilty earlier this week to residential arson and is set to be sentenced Aug. 11.

Bankier Apartments had to relocate residents, and businesses in the building were out of commission for a while. The owners estimated damage at $55,728, which was covered by insurance.

At the time of the arson, the boy was wanted for failure to show up for his sentencing for an aggravated battery that happened April 2 at University and Sixth Street in Champaign. Another count of robbery was dismissed when he pleaded guilty to that aggravated battery.

And when he pleaded guilty to the residential arson, a charge of aggravated battery alleging he spat on a person at the Illinois Terminal on June 9 was dismissed.

State’s Attorney Julia Rietz recommended the prison sentence, calling the teen “a danger to himself and the community.”

His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ramona Sullivan, told Difanis the youth was aware he had left the judge little choice but was sorry for his behavior.

Besides the crimes for which he was sentenced Friday, the teen had previous adjudications for theft, battery and aggravated battery. He had been out on parole less than a week when he committed the April aggravated battery, Difanis noted.


Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).