One more chance at rehab for teen charged in racing death
By Jim Newton firstname.lastname@example.org | @JimNewton5 October 16, 2013 11:10AM
Updated: November 18, 2013 7:30AM
Jeremy Betancourt was given one more chance Tuesday to remain in a residential treatment program rather than behind bars.
The 17-year-old Antioch teen, charged with aggravated street racing, aggravated DUI and reckless homicide in the death of an Antioch High School student, violated rules earlier this month at the Gateway Foundation drug and alcohol abuse residential program for adolescents, prompting prosecutors to seek a higher bond.
But in a hearing Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 15, Judge George Bridges denied the request to increase Betancourt’s bond from $100,000 to $200,000, stating that the Gateway program was probably the best place for the teen, and placing him in jail would likely result in a “downward spiral.”
“I’m going to give you a last opportunity to remain out on bond,” Bridges told Betancourt, who appeared in court with his mother and his attorney Jed Stone.
Betancourt pleaded not guilty Sept 18 to reckless homicide, street racing and several other felony charges related to the crash that that killed 16-year-old Antioch High School student Cynthia Perez. The most serious charges against him carry a sentence of up to 14 years in prison upon conviction.
The charges stem from a June 24 crash on Route 120, just east of Hunt Club Road, that occurred while Betancourt was allegedly street racing with another car. Perez was a passenger in his car and was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene.
Another defendant in the case, Michael R. Dawson, 19, also of Antioch, pleaded guilty last week to aggravated street racing in a negotiated plea agreement.
Dawson, the driver of the other car involved in the race, could have faced a sentencing range of one to 12 years in prison if convicted at trial. As part of the negotiation, the State’s Attorney’s Office and Dawson’s defense agreed to cap any possible prison sentence at eight years.
Dawson could also be sentenced to probation. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20.
Stone has indicated that Betancourt also may plead guilty in the case.
The hearing to increase Betancourt’s bond was prompted by reports that Betancourt posted pictures and text messages on social media while out of Gateway for a dental appointment Oct. 3.
Stone said Betancourt had used his mother’s phone, and that while his actions were an example of bad judgement, the texts the teen wrote included one expressing sorrow for the loss of Perez and one announcing that he had been sober for four months.
Noting Betancourt’s youth, learning disabilities and impulse control problems, Stone said he believes treatment such as Gateway, followed by some sort of vocational training, are the best chances for the teen to become a positive member of society in the future.
Betancourt is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Nov. 7, with a trial date tentatively scheduled Jan. 6.