PC Clinton burg plea

Former Champaign police Officer Justus Clinton, 45, of Fisher is shown during his arraignment Tuesday, May 15, 2018, at the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana on charges of burglary to a motor vehicle. On Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, he was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to the crime.

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URBANA — A former Champaign police officer who admitted he broke in to vehicles in his hometown when he was under the influence has been sentenced to a year of probation.

Justus Clinton, 45, entered the guilty plea Thursday before Judge Roger Webber to a single count of burglary to a motor vehicle without causing damage.

The sentence for the Class 3 felony was the result of an agreement worked out by Clinton’s attorney, Steve Beckett of Urbana, and Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Larson.

Clinton was also ordered to make restitution of $1,560 to two victims and return any items that Champaign County sheriff’s deputies found in his house that came from other vehicles he entered during the early-morning hours of May 13, 2018.

Larson said about 10 vehicles had been entered that morning. Surveillance video from a home in the area showed Clinton shining a flashlight into vehicles and trying door handles.

Sheriff’s deputies got a search warrant for his home and found several items such as charger cords, knives, cash and credit cards that belonged to the people whose vehicles had been entered.

In exchange for Clinton’s plea, two other counts of burglary to a motor vehicle were dismissed.

Besides restitution — $1,000 to a woman who said she lost a ring and cash and $60 to a man who said his wallet was taken — Clinton was ordered to perform 30 hours of public service, get substance-abuse and mental-health evaluations, and follow recommendations for treatments.

Beckett indicated Clinton has already done that and continues with therapy.

“He is clean, sober and employed, helping people at a substance-abuse agency,” said Beckett, who expressed disappointment that the state’s attorney’s office declined to give the 2010 officer of the year an opportunity to receive second-chance probation.

Beckett wanted to ask Webber to impose that sentence — which could have allowed Clinton to escape a felony conviction — but the state’s attorney’s office has to agree not to object and would not, Beckett said.

That consideration is often given to youthful, first-time offenders. Clinton had no prior criminal convictions.

By the time he was arrested, Clinton had already signed a separation agreement with the city of Champaign to end his 14-year career with the police department. That took effect May 21, 2018.

Clinton’s records from the police department revealed he had struggled with substance abuse, including showing up to work under the influence in late 2017 and early 2018. Prior to the vehicle burglaries, he had been given opportunities by the city to get help so he could keep his job.

Beckett said Clinton suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of “a bullet that whizzed past his head.”

In mid-2018, Webber had continued Clinton’s criminal case while he participated in substance-abuse treatment in South Carolina even though the state’s attorney’s office objected.

Reporter

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