URBANA — An Urbana teen who possessed the gun that another teen allegedly used to kill a mutual friend in March has been sentenced to juvenile prison.
Judge Anna Benjamin on Tuesday said a sentence of probation for the 15-year-old, who pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm, would deprecate the seriousness of the crime of which he was a part.
The youth was present about 1 a.m. March 15 in a common area of an apartment building at Prairie Green when Arif Jarrell, 15, allegedly shot and killed Mr. Emery, 16, so that he could rob Mr. Emery of his gun.
Jarrell’s case has been transferred to adult court, where he is charged with first-degree murder. If convicted, he faces harsher penalties than if he were convicted as a juvenile.
In the juvenile system, a minor may not be imprisoned beyond his or her 21st birthday.
States Attorney Julia Rietz argued for juvenile prison for the youth, calling his offense far more egregious than a “simple” possession of a firearm case.
“Because this is possession of a firearm used in the course of a murder of another juvenile,” she emphasized.
“We have three young men and two firearms. One was in the possession of Montrell Emery. The other gun was in the possession of Jarrell and” the youth being sentenced, she said.
Rietz said video evidence uncovered by Urbana police showed that before Mr. Emery’s shooting, Jarrell and the other teen were passing the gun back and forth between themselves in a car.
After the shooting, they made rap videos, she said.
“They were just playing, having a good time, almost celebrating the murder of Montrell Emery,” she said of what was depicted in the videos found on their phones.
Rietz called it “incredibly disturbing” that in approximately eight letters of support for the youth from family and friends and in his own written statement to the judge, “nowhere does anyone say Montrell’s name or we are sorry for the death of this young man.”
Rietz conceded that the adjudication was the youth’s first in the criminal justice system. A 2021 police contact for mob action was never criminally charged. But probation, she argued, “would send the wrong message to this young man and the community.”
The teen’s attorney, Jamie Propps of Champaign, argued that he is a good candidate for probation.
She reminded the judge that her client pleaded guilty to possessing a gun and was not responsible for Mr. Emery’s death. The teen maintained that he was out the door of the apartment building and on his way to a waiting car when the fatal shot was fired.
“He is adamant he didn’t see the murder and was not responsible,” she said. “Was it dangerous for him to have a firearm? Was it callous to make a video with the firearm the next day? Absolutely.”
Propps argued that the teen has a loving and supportive family, could return to Urbana High School, and has a job waiting for him.
Benjamin said the evidence was clear that the youth had the Glock handgun with an extended magazine used to kill Mr. Emery both before and after the shooting. However, police have been unable to find it. They did recover the gun that was taken that morning from Mr. Emery. It was found wrapped in Jarrell’s clothing at his brother’s apartment.
“Our community is suffering from a loss of life from violence,” Benjamin said.
Of the youth she was sentencing, she observed, “He’s 15 and has a lot of life to go. He’s much too young to be risking his life with loaded firearms.”
But the judge said the “careless use” of firearms by teens who should not have them cannot be tolerated and that the Department of Juvenile Justice has services to help the youth such as education, counseling and substance abuse in a secure setting.
Although the length of his sentence is up to DOJJ officials, the maximum he can be held is three years. He was given credit for just over four months already served.