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'Endearing' defendant offends again

Sinead Jones was popular in La Salle County Court during a May hearing. The judge admitted to liking her. And so did the prosecutor.

As a result, the 26-year-old got a good deal.

Last year, Jones pleaded guilty to domestic violence. She struck a woman in the face with a broom handle, knocking out her front teeth. After Jones was given probation, she violated it, having been accused of other crimes such as theft and vandalism, according to court records.

Jones made her case to Circuit Judge Cynthia Raccuglia, explaining how she dropped out of school at 15 when her mother died and detailing her plans to help others.

She could have been sent to prison, but instead, Jones was again sentenced to probation — as long as she kept her nose clean. The judge said there was something about Jones that was "endearing," but it wasn't her criminal history.

In expressing her liking of Jones, Raccuglia said she had said positive things about defendants before. But she couldn't recall a time in her quarter century as a judge in which she said she liked a defendant because of personality.

"I'm going out on a limb," Raccuglia said. "The aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors. But how do you weigh that against a judge who likes you?"

The judge continued, "Something tells me that you should be given a chance at 25 to rehabilitate yourself. This is your last chance."

Jones' public defender, Ryan Hamer, told his client, "You are blessed."

She replied, "I told you you could do it."

She shook Hamer's hand.

Jones said she wanted to start a Break the Cycle program, which aims to help youths end domestic violence. Raccuglia requested updates on how that program works out.

When Jones thanked the judge, Raccuglia replied, "Don't say thank you. Show me thank you."

In the next few months, Jones missed appointments with her probation officer and admitted to using both cocaine and marijuana, court records state. She failed to undergo mental health and drug and alcohol evaluations.

In November, the state's attorney's office recommended the court revoke Jones' probation, meaning she could go to prison.

Her last known address was on Dakota Street in Spring Valley, but court records indicate her current whereabouts are unknown.

Hamer, the public defender, couldn't be reached for comment.

A hearing is set for Friday on the petition to revoke Jones' probation.

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