18 year old may get a ‘parole date prior to his death,’ judge says

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

A boy who was 16 — and had a warrant for his arrest for violating probation when he sexually assaulted a Belleville woman — was sentenced Thursday afternoon to 80 years in prison.

Leondre McClendon, now 18, was found guilty in August by a jury of six counts related to the rape and carjacking in May 2016. He has been in St. Clair County Jail or Menard Correctional Center since his arrest that week.

Before passing the sentence after a complicated hearing that had both sides debating case law, Judge Robert Haida called McClendon’s conduct “despicable” and unnecessary. Haida said he believed, contrary to both defense attorneys’ and prosecutors’ beliefs, that the maximum sentence could be 140 years. The prosecution had said it believed 110 years was the maximum and defense attorneys asked for a minimum of 16.

McClendon received consecutive sentences of 30 years on two counts of aggravated sexual assault, and 5 years each on a remaining sexual assault charge and charges related to the car theft. He must serve 85 percent of the crimes related to sexual assault and at least 50 percent of the car-related charges.

With credits, Haida said he could receive a “parole date prior to his death.”

The victim read several single-spaced typed pages in her impact statement, specifying the crimes to which she has already testified and the impact on her life.

She’s gotten a gun and a dog, but still doesn’t feel safe. She said her job requires interaction with men that she found impossible in the weeks after the attack and even now still difficult. It was both an emotional and financial hardship, she said.

The woman said she takes self defense and kickboxing classes, which “costs more per hour than what I make.”

McClendon’s juvenile probation officer also testified that he had a juvenile history of assaults and had not received the mental health counseling that was required. A corrections officer at the St. Clair County Jail testified about an assault that McClendon was involved in.

Much of Assistant State’s Attorney Bernadette Schrempp and defense attorney Cathy MacElroy’s arguments at the sentencing focused on case law concerning juvenile crimes and sentences that would be, what they called, “de facto life” sentences. There were also arguments as to how long McClendon might live and whether that should matter in determining a sentence.

One of MacElroy’s arguments evoked strong emotion from the courtroom when she was arguing the severity of the crime, specifying case law precluded life sentences on non-homicidal offenses.

“There was no physical assault other than penetration,” she said. “Through counseling, the victim can be made close to whole.”

Haida rejected that there was no physical harm to the woman, saying she suffered physically and psychologically. He also found McClendon to have a prior history of delinquency and added the crimes occurred while he was on probation for assault.

Defense attorneys indicated they would appeal the sentence.

Mary Cooley: 618-239-2535; @MaryCooleyBND
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