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Stroup v. Enloe
United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
November 5, 2014
KENNETH STROUP, Petitioner,
DONALD ENLOE, Acting Warden, Dixon Correctional Center,  Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, District Judge.
Petitioner Kenneth Stroup pleaded guilty in Illinois state court to armed robbery and home invasion and was given concurrent 25-year terms. After exhausting his state court appeals, he filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, asserting a single claim that his sentences were grossly disparate to that of his two codefendants. For the reasons stated below, the petition is denied.
The following facts are taken from Illinois Appellate Court's opinion in petitioner's direct appeal, People v. Stroup, 921 N.E.2d 1218 (Ill.App.Ct. 2010), and are "presume[d] to be true." Whitman v. Bartow, 434 F.3d 968, 969 (7th Cir. 2006).
In April 2003, defendant and two of his friends, [Damon] Jones and Craig Buzzell, entered the home that Mr. and Mrs. Brummel shared with their teenage daughter. Once inside, defendant, Jones, and Buzzell rifled through the Brummels' belongings, stealing a few items. Mr. and Mrs. Brummel were taken to the basement, where they were tied up and monitored by defendant and Buzzell. The Brummels' daughter was escorted upstairs, where Jones sexually assaulted her.
Buzzell, whose case was resolved first, entered a negotiated plea of guilty to armed robbery, home invasion, and aggravated criminal sexual assault. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of 25 years for armed robbery and home invasion and a consecutive term of 10 years for aggravated criminal sexual assault, for an aggregate sentence of 35 years. As part of his plea agreement, Buzzell agreed to testify against Jones and defendant, both of whom were planning on exercising their right to trial. Jones subsequently waived his right to trial and entered an open plea of guilty to armed robbery, home invasion, and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. Jones was sentenced to concurrent terms of 15 years for home invasion and armed robbery and consecutive terms of 15 years for the aggravated criminal sexual assault convictions, for an aggregate sentence of 60 years.
Thereafter, defendant entered an open plea of guilty to armed robbery and home invasion, before the same judge who sentenced Jones. Following a sentencing hearing, defendant was sentenced to concurrent terms of 25 years. In imposing the sentences, the trial court commented:
"The defense has argued that the appropriate sentence is 15 years in the Department of Corrections because that is what Mr. Jones received for the offense of armed robbery - the offenses of armed robbery and home invasion. Certainly that is what the Court imposed upon Mr. Jones after a full sentencing hearing, but I think in order to make sure that the record is clear, that everyone understands that Mr. Jones's sentencing parameters were much different than this defendant's.
Mr. Jones was being sentenced on three separate offenses of aggravated criminal sexual assault as well as the home invasion and armed robbery. By operation of law, those sentences must run consecutive to one another. He did receive a 15-year concurrent sentence on home invasion and armed robbery. He also received a 15-year sentence on each of the separate aggravated criminal sexual assaults for an aggregate term of 60 years in the Department of Corrections with 45 of those years to be served at 85 percent. Mr. Jones, if he lives that long, will be released from penitentiary somewhere around age 70. So to say that a 15-year sentence for this based upon Mr. Jones's sentence is appropriate, I do not think that is appropriate.
* * *
Now, clearly based upon Mr. Jones's sentence and his actions in this case [he] was the m[o]st culpable of the three individuals. And if we're rating them in some way, Mr. Buzzell's conduct would certainly be second in line and the defendant's third because Mr. Buzzell also committed several other home invasions, two with Mr. Jones and then apparently one when he was on the run in Minnesota. So to - based upon all those factors, Mr. Jones clearly was the most culpable individual, Mr. Buzzell second based upon the totality of his criminal conduct and the defendant third.
* * * So although these individuals are similarly situated, they're codefendants in this particular case, and the Court will look at their sentences to give some direction as to what an appropriate sentence is in this case. They are also somewhat differently situated tha[n] this defendant."
Defendant moved to reconsider, arguing that his sentences were excessive, especially when compared to the sentences imposed on Jones and Buzzell. The trial court denied the motion. In so doing, the court stated:
"The one that I do wish to comment on is the last allegation, that this sentence was disproportionate to the other co-defendants based upon their culpability. And ...
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