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Nerheim fights bond ruling in racing fatality

Jeremy Betancourt

Jeremy Betancourt

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Updated: August 13, 2013 6:14AM

A hearing on potentially raising the bond for Lake County Jail inmate Jeremy Betancourt has been scheduled for Tuesday morning, July 16.

One day after a judge lowered the bond for an Antioch teenager charged in connection with the death of another Antioch teen during an alleged street race, Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim said he was already working to reverse the judge’s bond decision.

Nerheim said that the state will seek to reinstate the original $250,000 bond set after Betancourt’s arrest.

“We’re going to go ahead and try to change the bond,” Nerheim said.

Betancourt’s bond was reduced to $100,000 Tuesday by Judge Raymond Collins, upsetting family members and friends of Cynthia N. Perez, 16, who was killed June 24 when the car Betancourt was driving went airborne and rolled over on Route 120 in Gurnee.

But as of Thursday afternoon, Betancourt, 17, was still being held in Lake County Jail despite the bond reduction Tuesday.

His attorney Jed Stone declined to comment on Betancourt’s potential ability to meet the $10,000 requirements of a $100,000 bond to be released, but added that “everything helps.”

“We were grateful for the reconsideration,” Stone said. “I think $100,000 is fair and reasonable bond for a 17-year-old boy who has strong ties to the community.”

He was initially charged with reckless homicide and aggravated street racing, and now has seen the charges upgraded to include aggravated DUI, another felony, after authorities said tests following the crash showed he had marijuana in his system.

Nerheim said Wednesday he instructed assistant state’s attorneys to prepare a formal motion to reconsider and return the bond to $250,000.

A hearing on the motion is has been scheduled for next Tuesday, July 16. A hearing on the motion is has been scheduled for next Tuesday.

Nerheim noted that the aggravated DUI charges carry a longer potential prison term upon conviction than the reckless homicide charges on which the original bond was based.

Stone said the purpose of bond is “not to punish,” but to ensure that the defendant is in court when he is supposed to be.

“I can assure that he will be there when he is supposed to be there and I will be standing next to him,” Stone said.

The accident occurred at 8:19 p.m. on Route 120, just east of Hunt Club Road, according to Gurnee police, who said Betancourt was speeding eastbound in a black 2004 Honda Civic on Route 120, racing a red 2000 Ford Focus, when he lost control of the Honda.

The car is believed to have gone airborne, then rolled over in the median ditch between the eastbound and westbound lanes before coming to rest in the westbound lanes.

The Honda had four occupants, including Perez, who was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, according to County Coroner Thomas Rudd. Other injured passengers were transported for treatment.

The drivers of both vehicles were arrested.

The driver of the Ford, Michael R. Dawson, 19, also of Antioch, was charged with aggravated street racing and cited for operating a vehicle with expired registration.

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