Man gets 34 years for sex ad robbery

URBANA — A Champaign County judge said public-safety concerns largely contributed to her decision to sentence a Rantoul man to 34 years in prison for the armed robbery of a man who answered an online sex ad.

Judge Heidi Ladd noted that the Oct. 23, 2016, incident at a Rantoul apartment building ended with the victim being shot at as he escaped in his car, saying that while it wasn’t clear whether Blake Wilson, 23, or co-defendant Lincoln Johns, 21, of Chicago fired the gun, the two acted together and endangered the safety of their neighbors.

“The gun was fired ... with other people around ... thinking they were safe and secure,” Ladd said Wednesday at Wilson’s sentencing.

A Champaign County jury convicted Wilson of armed robbery on Aug. 24. He was facing up to 45 years. Wilson indicated that he might appeal the sentence; Johns’ case is unresolved.

At Wilson’s trial, the victim, a 39-year-old Champaign man, testified that he had been drinking heavily that night after the Chicago Cubs secured a berth in the World Series and had answered a sex ad placed on the Backpage classified-ad website by Chelsey McReynolds, 23, of Champaign.

He said that when he arrived at the apartment building in the 1100 block of Falcon Drive in Rantoul, McReynolds and another woman took him upstairs to a bedroom, then the women left. Shortly thereafter, two men police identified as Wilson and Johns came in with their faces covered. One of them pointed a handgun at his face and demanded his property.

“They were pointing the gun at me, screaming and threatening to kill me,” the victim said.

McReynolds testified that she was dating Wilson and staying at the apartment during the incident. She pleaded guilty in January to a single count of robbery for her role in the holdup and was sentenced to four years of probation.

The victim testified that after he gave Wilson and Johns his cash, credit cards, keys, phone, phone passcode and credit-card PIN, they hit him around and in the face. He was able to escape the apartment, use a different set of keys to start his vehicle and drive to a nearby gas station, where he called police. He said that while he was running to his car, a shot was fired in his direction. Rantoul police later found a bullet hole in his car.

In a statement given before Ladd handed down her sentence, Wilson said only he or Johns should be punished because the victim testified that there was one gun that never changed hands.

Ladd disagreed.

“Accountability means both people acting in concert,” Ladd said. “It’s clear from the evidence that both people acted together.”

Wilson also said in his statement that he was prematurely detained. Rantoul police Sgt. Dustin Morgan said Wilson refused to come outside when police arrived and “put his face in my body cam, smiling.”

Wilson’s “demeanor was laughing, mocking, refusing to come outside ... so police had reason,” Ladd said about the detainment.

Ladd said Wilson’s behavior didn’t improve after his arrest, noting that he picked on people in jail, urinated on his cell door and threatened to throw feces.

“The defendant doesn’t care what he does if he gets away with it,” Ladd said, noting no evidence of regret or remorse. “He doesn’t care who he victimizes.”

Wilson hung his head as she made those statements.

Ladd said another sizeable part of her decision was Wilson’s involvement in a Oct. 18 robbery that she called “striking in its similarity.” The victim from that incident did not call the police.

“It was the same cast of characters. It was successful, and that’s why they did it again,” Ladd said. “They took advantage of an easy hire. ... This was well-planned and not spur-of-the-moment.”

Ladd also noted Wilson’s young daughter in her decision-making, saying he wasn’t taking care of her but that she would be at risk around him.

nwickman@news-gazette.com

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