SYCAMORE - A man from a small town near the Illinois-Kentucky border facing felony burglary and drug possession charges pleaded guilty in DeKalb County court Monday and in exchange offered testimony against a co-defendant.
DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick accepted the guilty plea of John A. Berlin, 39, of the 8400 block of Shawneetown, during a closed circuit court bond hearing via Zoom. Berlin was sentenced by Buick to 24 months of conditional discharge, meaning he will not serve jail time. Berlin faced up to seven years in jail and fines up to $25,000.
Berlin is also required to complete the remainder of his court-ordered drug rehabilitation program, and will need to serve his sentence in accordance with probation he’s serving out of Peoria County, court officials said Monday.
In addition to his conditional discharge, Berlin is also ordered to pay $1,323 in fines related to three felony convictions he pleaded guilty to Monday, including burglary to real property, a Class 2 felony, unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and unlawful possession of methamphetamine.
When Buick asked Berlin if he was guilty of the charges, he replied “Yes, ma’am.” Prosecutors also remarked at how much progress Berlin had made since he entered into court-order drug rehabilitation.
“I know you’ve done a lot of good work since this time,” DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Regna said to Berlin as he took the man’s testimony in exchange for his plea.
“Sorry I don’t know more,” Berlin said.
Berlin’s charges stemmed from two separate incidents, prosecutors said. The first was in relation to a Jan. 14, 2021 incident during which DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputies located Berlin in a ditch around 6:51 a.m. near Hinckley and Perry roads in DeKalb County. Sheriff’s deputies had been asked by police out of Kane County for help locating a reported stolen vehicle, a white Ford F150 pickup truck with a flatbed trailer.
Regna said sheriff’s deputies found the car in a ditch with Berlin inside of it. Berlin gave officers no explanation as to why he had the car. During a search, officers also found white substance later identified as methamphetamines in Berlin’s wallet.
Berlin pleaded guilty to charges related to that incident, as well as another that occurred Nov. 8, 2020 involving burglary.
The burglary charge was added Sept. 16 to Berlin’s charges related to a Nov. 8, 2020 incident. According to DeKalb County court records, the circumstances of which Berlin pleaded guilty to Monday, during the incident, while under the influence of drugs, Berlin and another man – identified as Kevin M. Meeks, wanted in connection to the incident but not in police custody, records show – broke into an impound lot in Waterman. They then stole a white 2005 GMC Yukon, registered to Meeks, out of the facility without paying the tow or lot fees.
“The court finds there is factual basis of the pleas of guilty into three felony charges,” Buick said to Berlin on Monday. “I’m also finding that the proposed sentence is appropriate given your past criminal history. Your pleas of guilty are accepted.”
Berlin, who must serve his sentence through Sept. 29, 2023, has cases pending in Tazewell County, said his lawyer, Public Defender Chip Criswell, and had already pleaded to probation in Peoria County at the time of Monday’s hearing. Regna, who took testimony from Berlin, said the Shawneetown man also has an “extensive felony criminal history,” but the most severe is a Class 3 felony drug charge. The charges Berlin pleaded to Monday are the only criminal charges he has faced in DeKalb County, records show.
During his testimony, Berlin asked Regna if he could confirm allegations that Meeks, who has a DeKalb County warrant charged with burglary dated Sept. 16 out for his arrest records show, was involved in the incident.
“Yes, sir,” Berlin responded, adding he was acquainted with Meeks because of drugs. He confirmed for prosecutors that he was involved in the burglary of car impound at AMK Auto Body in the 200 block of East Lincoln Highway in Waterman Nov. 8, 2020.