SPRINGFIELD – Legislation that was sponsored by Illinois State Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) and State Representative Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and drafted by Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow that strengthens penalties for abusers who torture their victims was signed into over the weekend by the governor.
The law, which bears the name of a Joliet resident who fell victim to two days of torture and beating at the hands of her then-husband, increases prison sentences for battery cases involving torture to a minimum of 4 years and a maximum of 15 years and enhances the offense to a Class 1 felony from a Class 3 felony.
Over a period of two days in July 2009, Rebecca Mercado was held hostage in her own home by her then-husband. He beat her repeatedly with a metal broom and a piece of wood until she passed out from the torture and abuse. Her abuser was sentenced to just four-and-a-half years in prison, which was nearly the maximum penalty allowed under state law at the time.
Mercado’s case inspired State’s Attorney Glasgow to contact Senator Holmes and Minority House Leader Tom Cross to help fill a gap in the state’s aggravated battery law.
“Rebecca suffered her husband’s constant physical violence for two days while her three young children were in the house,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “Her case cried out for greater penalties. Anyone who would inflict this kind of torture on another person deserves a stronger prison sentence. Thanks to Rebecca, Senator Holmes and Representative Cross, we are helping protect battered women by increasing prison sentences for the most violent abusers.”
Aggravated battery was previously listed a Class 3 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Due to the seriousness of the injuries and the fact that her three children were in the house during the beating, the judge handed down nearly the maximum sentence.
“After Rebecca’s story was brought to my attention, I knew something had to be done strengthen penalties for this type of torture and abuse,” Senator Holmes said. “Previous law classified this crime as only a Class 3 felony, which was equal to being charged with possession of methamphetamine. The type of abuse and torture Rebecca went through warranted a stronger penalty.”
Rep. Cross said: “This is a case of a crime victim coming forward and wanting to change the laws so the next victim has more options than she did, going forward. Rebecca has extreme courage and character to turn a truly awful situation into a story of survival and fighting back – for future victims.”