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home : news : north central illinois   April 29, 2016

5/17/2013 4:03:00 AM
Cocaine ringleader challenges sentence, not conviction

Tom Collins
NewsTribune Senior Reporter

OTTAWA — A Spring Valley man who operated a cocaine ring from a downtown Peru boot shop wants an appellate court to overturn his sentence — but he isn’t challenging the conviction itself.

Alejandro Arteaga, 36, currently is scheduled for release in 2025 after he serves back-to-back sentences for dealing cocaine in Bureau and La Salle counties. He was charged after 50 police raided his western clothing and boot shop located near Peru City Hall, resulting in the seizure of more than a pound of cocaine.

Arteaga and his lawyers pledged to appeal after a La Salle County jury convicted him last year of running the cocaine ring. However, his May 7 filing with the 3rd District Appellate Court doesn’t challenge any of the once-disputed facts or testimony.

Instead, Arteaga wants relief from his 16-year sentence in La Salle County. He claims Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. failed to consider the hardship prison would have on Arteaga’s wife and children and issued an “improper double enhancement” by considering the quantity of cocaine seized, among other factors.

In his filing, Arteaga said Ryan outright refused to consider the impact of prison on Arteaga’s family, as required under Illinois sentencing guidelines.

“If he’s going to have to suffer and the family suffers, let’s put the blame where it belongs,” Ryan said, according to a transcript filed with the appeals court. “It’s not with the court; it’s with the defendant. I do not have much sympathy for that.”

Arteaga also claims Ryan at sentencing improperly considered the amount of cocaine seized, the compensation Arteaga drew and the fact that he was a dealer, not a user. Arteaga and appellate defender Rachel Moran said that constitutes an “improper double enhancement.”

“Improper double enhancement occurs when the same fact is considered both as an attribute of the offense and a reason to impose a harsher sentence,” Moran said in the filing.

Appellate prosecutors will have an opportunity to reply before the appellate court issues a ruling, which is not expected for months. Attorneys indicated that Arteaga is no danger of drawing more prison time if the court orders a new sentencing hearing.

Arteaga must first serve his 5-year sentence from Bureau County, which he drew for delivering cocaine to undercover agents while awaiting trial in La Salle County. Once he completes the 5 years, Arteaga will begin his 16 years for running the cocaine ring in La Salle County. Upon release, he will be deported to Mexico.

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 223-3206 Ext. 130 or courtreporter

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