A lesson in why tougher laws don’t always work
Thursday, Sep 29, 2016
* We have a good example in Champaign County about how this state can enact the strongest gun-crime laws in the country and everyone can still wind up shaking their heads in disbelief when a gun offender gets out of prison and almost immediately kills somebody.
The defendant in this case is Robbie Patton, who is wanted for the murder of one person and the wounding of three others in a now infamous shooting incident near the University of Illinois campus.
Patton was sent to a boot camp instead of prison and released after serving a combined 259 days in local jail and the camp…
OK, wait. Eligibility for boot camp requires that sentences be no longer than 8 years. So, while the state’s attorney did publicly object to boot camp, her office negotiated a plea deal that made boot camp possible.
And, as a local article points out, “boot camp recommendations by Champaign County judges for first-time young adult offenders are common.” The state’s attorney’s office had to know that boot camp was a likely outcome of that deal.
* OK, let’s back up a second. Here’s an explanation of Patton’s original crime…
Shooting at people in a crowded public area. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s pretty much exactly what Patton is being accused of now.
* Patton was also arrested just two days after being paroled…
Um, according to the circuit court clerk’s website, Patton was released without bond (click here and input the case number of 16CM000877). But, whatever. That’s neither here nor there, I suppose.
So, two weeks after he was released on parole, and days after he got out of jail for another offense, Patton allegedly killed one person and injured three more over an escalated argument about a spilled drink.
* I’m not saying we shouldn’t have tougher gun-crime laws. I’m solidly on record in favor of them. They’re needed. But prosecutors always have discretion to reduce charges to avoid triggering longer sentences. And they can also agree to let people out of jail without posting bond.
Changing laws won’t change those facts of legal life.