EDWARDSVILLE — Brian Gary finally got the sentence he wanted -- life in prison.
Gary, 48, pleaded guilty in 2007 to the murder of 60-year-old Carol Newby, known as Granite City's "Rappin' Grandma" for her gospel rap songs she wrote and performed in churches.
Gary's guilty plea earned him a 50-year prison sentence, but his attorneys have argued that as his third Class X felony, he should have received no less than natural life in prison, as a habitual offender.
That's what he received on Friday, as Chief Judge Ann Callis sentenced him to life with no argument or mitigation offered from the defense.
However, defense attorney Tyler Bateman immediately gave notice of appeal; now that Gary has been found guilty rather than pleaded guilty, he can appeal previous rulings such as the admission of his statement to police in 2006.
Gary declined to speak at his sentencing, and his attorney declined to comment.
Gary is the second man this month to gain a new trial by claiming his plea-bargain sentence was too short. Brian Pinkas, 51, won a new trial in his girlfriend's murder by arguing that the 20-year sentence did not tack on the 25 extra years he should have gotten for a murder committed with a firearm.
However, Pinkas was found guilty again despite defense arguments that he had committed involuntary manslaughter. He was convicted of first-degree murder and will face between 45 and 85 years in prison.
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said this new tactic may have some impact on plea bargains, which are used to expedite cases and avoid clogging the courts -- but the appellate court has insisted they adhere to the minimum sentencees they would receive anyway.
"Where the court has drawn the line is to make sure the punishment fits the crime," Gibbons said. "We strive to make sure that happens."
He said without the death penalty to use as a bargaining chip in Illinois, there is little to induce a person facing life in prison to take a plea, and more cases will end up going to trial.
"When we're negotiating on serious cases where the death penalty would have been an option, we lose the ace in our hand," Gibbons said.
As a result, more cases will go to trial that otherwise would have been negotiated, he said.
But in Gary's case, he said, the evidence was "overwhelming."
"If he wants to joust with windmills in the appellate court for the rest of his life ... let him do that," Gibbons said.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 239-2501.