URBANA — A Champaign County judge Wednesday sentenced a Rantoul man to six years in prison for his 15th conviction for driving under revocation.
But a frustrated Judge Brett Olmstead unleashed on Edward Duckworth, reminding him that even the minimum sentence for the non-violent driving offense was no one’s fault but his own.
“It’s frustrating to read a letter from a 13-year-old girl who thinks there’s some shadowy, unfeeling authority figure responsible for this. That is not true,” Olmstead, referring to a letter of support from Duckworth’s stepdaughter.
“There was one person who knew he was headed to prison if he got behind the wheel of a car, who knew this was a certainty, and that was Mr. Duckworth,” said Olmstead.
In February, a jury convicted Duckworth, 34, who listed an address on Hobson Drive, of driving under revocation for being behind the wheel on Oct. 15, 2017.
Duckworth was in a car stopped on Maplewood near Falcon in Rantoul, where police saw him yelling at his girlfriend. They were investigating a possible domestic disturbance and instead, arrested Duckworth for driving under revocation.
Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Reynolds recommended a 10-year prison sentence for Duckworth, who had two other, older convictions for drug offenses as well as other non-violent convictions in his past. Duckworth’s attorney, Steve Sarm of Champaign, asked for the minimum six years, noting that Duckworth is not a violent person, is employed and recently became a father.
Olmstead observed Duckworth’s license was revoked for a driving under the influence conviction Duckworth received when he was only 17. Duckworth never took steps to get his license reinstated, the judge said, instead continuing to take a chance at driving without a license and racking up the subsequent DUR convictions.
“I’m looking at page after page of luck that’s all bad,” Olmstead said of the prior convictions.
Acknowledging Duckworth’s Class X felony conviction for DUR paled in comparison to other Class X felonies like rape, home invasion or aggravated battery to a child, Olmstead said it was Duckworth who repeatedly made the choice to drive when he knew he shouldn’t.
The judge told Duckworth the next time he decides to drive, he should write a letter to his stepdaughter, his employer and other family members who depend on him saying: ‘Why was it more important for you to get behind the wheel and fire up that engine than it was to be there in those people’s lives?”