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URBANA — A 15-year-old Urbana youth who pleaded guilty to taking part in setting a fire that heavily damaged a Campustown apartment has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

However, the teen may not be held beyond his 21st birthday in a Department of Juvenile Justice prison.

He pleaded guilty in early July before Judge Tom Difanis to residential arson for a fire just before midnight on June 8 at 509 E. Green St., C. The fire was started in a two-wheeled garbage tote behind the building but spread to a bank of electrical meters, heavily damaging those and prompting the landlords to shut down the building while repairs were made. Several residents were displaced.

The act was captured on video.

In return for his plea, a more serious charge of aggravated arson was dismissed.

The teen had earlier pleaded guilty to aggravated battery for an April 2 attack on another juvenile in an alley by a gas station in the 600 block of East University Avenue, Champaign. He was out awaiting sentencing for that at the time of the arson. For that crime, Difanis sentenced him to five years in prison to be served concurrently with the 15 for arson.

Another charge of aggravated battery alleging he spat on a man at the Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign a few hours after the apartment fire was dismissed to resolve all the criminal cases.

The 15-year sentence was the same as Difanis gave last month to a co-defendant who had also pleaded guilty to residential arson and the same aggravated battery.

No restitution was ordered for the teens because insurance covered the loss, which a Bankier employee earlier estimated in the tens of thousands of dollars because of the cost of repairs and relocating tenants.

The teen sentenced Wednesday had a previous adjudication for attempted armed robbery for his role in a brutal attack on a UI student who was clubbed in the face with a brick and robbed of his wallet on the Quad in January 2018.



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).