JOLIET – Rebecca Mercado suffered two days of torture at the hands of her enraged husband in July 2009 when he held her captive in their Joliet house and beat her repeatedly with his hands, a piece of wood trim and a metal broom handle.
She survived the brutal attack and worked closely with Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow’s Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit to place her husband in prison for 4-1/2 years.
On Wednesday, she joined State’s Attorney Glasgow in testifying before the Illinois Senate Criminal Law Committee regarding legislation that will significantly raise the penalties for the most violent domestic abusers.
Rebecca’s Law (HB 233) was drafted by State’s Attorney Glasgow and sponsored by Representatives Tom Cross, Dennis Reboletti and Jim Watson in the House and Senator Linda Holmes in the Senate. The law amends the state’s Aggravated Battery Statute to make it a Class 1 Felony to torture a victim like Mercado was tortured. Class 1 Felonies are punishable by 4-15 years in prison.
Mercado’s horrific case inspired State’s Attorney Glasgow to join Senator Holmes and Representatives Cross, Reboletti and Watson to fill a gap in the state’s Aggravated Battery Statute. Erick Mercado-Hernandez was convicted of aggravated battery and domestic battery, but under current law he was only eligible for a maximum of five years in prison.
“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. “She survived a terrible ordeal that left her battered and bruised. Her case cried out for greater penalties for anyone who would inflict this kind of torture on another person. Today, this courageous woman has found her voice, and she is working with the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office and the General Assembly to pass a law to protect other abused women.”
“Under current law, offenses like the one Rebecca fell victim to are on the same level as being convicted of meth possession,” Senator Holmes said. “After hearing Rebecca’s horrific story, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that steps needed to be taken to enhance penalties for crimes like these. This bill is important to help protect abused women throughout the state.”
“We are so proud of Rebecca for her courage on this issue and working together with us so that victims in the future will have more options when it comes to these horrible crimes,” said Rep. Cross. “I applaud her for her tenacity and courage.”
Mercado suffered extensive bruising across her body, including her head, back, legs and feet during the attack. She would not flee because she was too injured to escape with all three of her little children, who ranged in age from 6-months-old to 5-years-old at the time. Mercado and her children were rescued after she secretly dialed 911 and left the phone off the hook while her husband was in the bathroom.
Aggravated battery is a Class 3 felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The judge handed down a sentence at the top of the range after noting the seriousness of the victim’s injuries and the fact that three children were in the house during the two-day beating.
“My ex-husband received close to the maximum sentence under the current law, but with good behavior he most likely will get out of prison in January of 2012,” Mercado said. “The amendment that is proposed is necessary so that other women who find themselves in my place know there are strong sentences to protect them from their abusers when they follow through with their prosecutions.”
The case against Mercado-Hernandez was handled by State’s Attorney Glasgow’s specialized Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit and his Victim Independence Program. Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Meyers secured the guilty plea and prison sentence in the courtroom while Domestic Violence Victim Advocate Kathy Craven provided the victim with support services and encouragement to follow through with the prosecution. Craven called Mercado on the day the case was charged and remained in constant contact with her over the past year. Mercado noted that had the team not reached out to her immediately and offered its continuous support, which included referrals for domestic violence counseling and the securing of an order of protection against her husband, she would not have followed through with the prosecution.