URBANA — One of four teens involved in a brutal attack on a University of Illinois student on the Quad in January is headed to juvenile prison.
Judge Tom Difanis on Monday agreed with the teen’s court-appointed attorney, Andrea Bergstrom of Urbana, that the Department of Children and Family Services had failed the teen by shuttling him from one inappropriate placement to another throughout his troubled youth.
Still, the judge said, the public needed to be protected from the 16-year-old who admitted he picked up a brick and smashed the face of the UI student in hopes of robbing him of cash to pay for a night of partying.
“It’s an outrageous offense,” Difanis said. “This young man has had a terrible life. But that’s no excuse.”
Difanis sentenced the youth, who had earlier pleaded guilty to attempted armed robbery, to 15 years in juvenile prison. However, he can’t be held beyond his 21st birthday.
The teen was one of four runaways — three from a Cunningham Children’s Home in Urbana — who took part in the attack on the student as he walked between Altgeld Hall and the Illini Union on Jan. 7.
State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said the victim did not lose consciousness as the teens had hoped but sustained a fractured cheekbone and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has had to pay about $3,000 in medical expenses.
The three charged in juvenile court, ages 16, 16 and 13, have all pleaded guilty to attempted armed robbery.
Isaiah Conley, 19, is being held in the jail awaiting trial later this spring on charges of attempted armed robbery and aggravated battery.
Rietz recommended juvenile prison for the boy, acknowledging the violence and abuse he witnessed and suffered as a younger child.
“But that is no justification for his behavior on Jan. 8,” she argued.
She said Cunningham Children’s Home had tried to help the teen but reported that he is “volatile and difficult to deal with,” “constantly on edge and irritable,” and in need of more supervision than they are able to provide him.
“Hopefully DOJJ can find an appropriate residential placement for him,” she said.
Bergstrom made an impassioned plea for probation, saying it was not the teen’s fault that DCFS had failed to find the right services for him.
While acknowledging the seriousness of his crime, she said he took responsibility by pleading guilty and since then had not run away from Cunningham.
Rietz said he had done so eight times between late November and his arrest in January.
“He has decent grades. He has positive things going for him. It’s a cop out to say he has to go to DOJJ,” Bergstrom argued.