Convicted 27 times, ex-Dewey man gets 8 years in prison

URBANA — A former Dewey man is headed to prison for eight years for robbing a store clerk in Urbana three months ago.

“He has spent half his life in the criminal justice system,” Judge Heidi Ladd said of James Winters of Urbana. “The court has the responsibility to say enough is enough.”

Ladd was sentencing Winters, 47, who last lived in the 200 block of Dewey, for aggravated robbery for the Sept. 14 holdup of a female clerk at The Best of Africa’s Food Store, 208 W. Griggs St., Urbana.

Winters pleaded guilty in October, admitting that he made off with cash by showing an employee a gun in his waistband that turned out to be a pellet gun.

“That’s small comfort to the clerk who was forced to turn over several hundred dollars,” Ladd said.

At the time of his plea, the state’s attorney’s office agreed to seek a sentence of no more than eight years in prison for the Class 1 felony.

Assistant State’s Attorney Toby Ortega did just that on Wednesday, noting that Winters had failed to take advantage of numerous community resources offered him over the years.

Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones asked that her client — for whom a prison sentence was mandated because of his record — be sent to a prison where he could get drug treatment for a minimum of four years.

Miller-Jones said all of Winters’ previous crimes were property crimes related to his addiction to cannabis and crack cocaine. She called the food store holdup “an act of desperation.”

Winters acknowledged his poor record and asked the judge to consider him for drug treatment while he’s locked up, saying that drugs will likely kill him.

Ladd declined to give him the drug treatment recommendation, saying he has had ample opportunities in the past for that.

The judge counted 27 convictions in Winters’ past, 22 of which were for theft. She noted he had been to prison seven times and jailed at least 12 times over the years.

At the time of his arrest, he was serving a community-based sentence and had been ordered to get help for his drug problem.

“I believe he’s probably regretted it the other 27 times he’s been through the system,” she said. “His regret is after getting caught.”

mschenk@news-gazette.com

 

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