Smile Politely

Addiction in the time of prohibition, part one

This is the first in a two-part series focusing on the multiple arrests of Antwan Foster. Part two will run next Wednesday.

Antwan Foster, age 34, a recently arrived inmate to Robinson Correctional Center in Robinson, IL, considers his life of crime as “petty,” and compared to others he’s been incarcerated with nowadays, deserving far less time than what Judge Tom Difanis decided on March 16, 2015. Foster is “appalled” by what he sees as lenient sentences bestowed to violent offenders. Antwan’s mother agrees, “They just threw him in the garbage can when they knew he had a drug problem. I don’t know why they couldn’t have sentenced him to an alternative to incarceration that addresses his drug problem. He is truly a good person, he just needs to learn how to lead a drug-free life.”

Foster’s criminal record is astounding for it’s frequency. Whatever the criminal justice system had to offer did not stop Foster from catching another case year after year after year.

In January of 1998, the 16 year-old Foster is picked up on a curfew violation and put on court supervision and ordered to perform 15 hours of public service.

In November of 1998, the 17 year-old Foster is stopped by Urbana police officer Harley Rutledge driving his mom’s car after Foster disregarded a traffic control device and discovers Foster has no driver’s license.

In May of 1999, Champaign police officer Chris Chambers notices Foster driving 15 to 20 mph over the speed limit and Foster attempts to elude the officer. After he’s caught, it’s discovered Foster still has no license.

In October of 1999, the 18 year-old Foster is seen by a University Police Officer disregarding a traffic light and once stopped, the officer discovers Foster is carrying alcohol in the car, driving on a suspended license, and has no insurance.

In September of 2000 when he was 19 years-old, Foster was picked up for Criminal Trespass to Land, a Class C misdemeanor.

Two days later, Champaign police officer Brad Krauel notices Foster is riding in a car without his seat belt on and discovers the 19 year-old has liquor.

In December of 2000, his mother bails him out of jail, after which he pleads guilty to the misdemeanor trespass charge and is sentenced to 18 months probation.

40 days later, Champaign police officer Brad Krauel stops a car Foster is driving and it’s discovered Foster is driving on an expired license. Upon searching the vehicle it’s also discovered Foster is in possession of stolen merchandise, drug paraphernalia, and has alcohol in the car. Foster is arrested again for theft of less than $300, resisting a police officer, and possession of drug paraphernalia. His mom again bonds him out next day. Foster fails to appear in court in April of 2001, and a warrant is put out for his arrest.

Police then arrest him again in May of 2001 for a Class 3 felony forgery case.
Let out of jail again, police find him that summer in June distributing look-alike substances. Foster spent 58 days in jail, when in August, he took a plea agreement to plead guilty to the felony look-alike drug charge in exchange for dismissing the theft, resisting a police officer, and drug paraphernalia charges and also dismissing his forgery case. He was sentenced to 24 months of probation.

In October of 2001, the 20 year-old Foster is stopped by Urbana police officer Jay Loschen driving near the Urbana Country Club and it’s discovered Foster is driving on a suspended license.

Also in October of 2001, a report is filed to revoke Foster’s probation in the criminal trespass case from 2000.

In November of 2001, Champaign police officer Jack Turner stops a car where Foster is a passenger and discovers Foster is drinking alcohol.   

Two days later, Foster is charged with Attempted Residential Burglary, and is bonded out 5 days later. Foster fails to appear at a hearing with his probation officer in January of 2002 over his look-alike drug case and a $25,000 warrant is issued.

8 days later, Foster is found and taken into custody on a Possession of a Stolen Vehicle charge. Foster sits in jail for 35 days before he accepts another plea bargain to dismiss his revoked probations in the criminal trespass case from 2000, his revoked probation in the look-alike drug charge from 2001, and the attempted residential burglary charge is dropped; in exchange for his plea of guilty to possession of a converted motor vehicle, his second felony conviction. The 20 year-old is sentenced to 5 years in prison, but qualifies for impact incarceration.

In July of 2002, Foster is discharged from the program.

In January of 2003, is charged with Aggravated Battery in a public place, a class 3 felony, and for the same incident, he’s also charged with three counts of misdemeanor battery. 

Two weeks later, the 21 year-old Foster is arrested again for residential burglary and charged with a class 1 felony. Foster remains in jail for 221 days until August of 2003, when he then pleads guilty to the residential burglary and is sentenced to prison for 4 years. His battery charges are dismissed.

In April of 2004, Foster is released from prison.

In June of 2004, A University of police officer pulls a car over that Foster is driving to discover Foster is unlicensed and has no insurance. 

In November of 2004, the 23 year-old Foster is charged with resisting a police officer. He sits in jail for 34 days until December when he pleads guilty and is sentenced to 364 days in the county jail with credit for the 34 days.

In December of 2004, Foster’s parole is revoked and he is sent back to prison.

In September of 2005, the 24 year-old Foster is released from prison.

In December of 2005, Urbana Police officer Jay Loschen sees Foster drag racing in his mother’s car on North Cunningham and discovers alcohol and drug paraphernalia in the car and Foster is also charged with a class 3 felony of aggravated battery to a police officer. Foster sits in jail for 149 days until May of 2006 when he pleads guilty to his third felony, a reduced charge of resisting a police officer, and is sentenced to two more years in prison with credit for the 149 days.

In July of 2006, Foster is released from prison.

In August of 2006, Champaign police officer Christopher Oberheim sees Foster disregard a traffic light and upon search of the vehicle Foster is found to be in possession of a controlled substance, a class 4 felony. Foster sits in jail for 57 days until attorneys work out a deal in October whereby Foster pleads guilty to a possession of drug paraphernalia charge, a class A misdemeanor, and the felony charge of possessing a controlled substance is dropped. He is released from the county jail with a $700 fine.

In January of 2007, Champaign police officer Chris Chambers stops Foster driving his mom’s car 15 to 20 mph over the speed limit. 

In May of 2007, Champaign police officer Alison Ferguson, stops the 25 year-old Foster in a car that he’s driving near the police station for having an out-license plate light and discovers Foster is driving without insurance, driving on a suspended license and during the course of the traffic stop, Foster is searched and again caught with drugs and is charged with a Class 4 Felony of possession of a controlled substance. Two days later, his mom bonds him out of jail.

9 days later he is arrested for disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor. Foster is allowed out of jail again.

In June of 2007 and the day after a hearing about the previous two pending charges, Foster is arrested again for a class 3 felony forgery charge. 5 days later, his mother bonds him out again. After failing to appear for a September hearing over the disorderly conduct charge, the state moves to dismiss the charge.

In October of 2007, the 26 year-old Foster is arrested again on charges of a class C misdemeanor criminal damage to property under $300 and criminal trespass to a residence, a class A misdemeanor. In a separate hearing about the possession of a controlled substance charge from May, Foster pleads guilty.

3 days later, Foster is sentenced to 10 days in the county jail for the criminal trespass to a residence while the damage to property charge is dismissed.

In November of 2007, the state moves to dismiss the class 3 felony forgery charge.
That same month, Foster is given an extended sentence of 5 years in prison for the class 4 felony, possession of a controlled substance, his fourth felony conviction.

In September of 2009, the 28 year-old Foster is released from prison.

In October of 2009, A State trooper notices Foster driving without a seat belt and discovers he has no license.

8 days later, an Urbana police officer sees Foster disregard a traffic light and discovers Foster is driving without a license.

In January of 2010, Foster is arrested for a class A misdemeanor of resisting a police officer and another charge of possession of drug paraphernalia and taken into the county jail. Two weeks later, Foster pleads guilty to the resisting a police officer charge and is sentenced to 60 days in the county jail with credit for 17 days served.

In September of 2010, the 29 year-old Foster is given a city ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia.

In February 2011, An Illinois State trooper sees Foster driving without a seat belt and discovers Foster has no license.

In November of 2011, the 30 year-old Foster does not appear for a court hearing on his city drug paraphernalia charge, and is found guilty in his absence.

In January of 2012, Foster is arrested for two class 2 felonies of burglary and a class 4 felony of retail theft of merchandise less than $300. 23 days later, while Foster is in jail, he is charged with 2 counts of residential burglary from November of 2011, both class 1 felonies.

In May of 2012, Foster’s mother bails him out of jail.

In October of 2012, the 31 year-old Foster fails to show up in court for the 3 pending felonies and a $25,000 warrant is put out for his arrest.

In January of 2013, a $2,000 bench warrant is issued for Foster’s arrest when he fails to appear for a hearing about the city ticket of possession of drug paraphernalia from 2010.

In February of 2013, a hearing is held in Foster’s absence, and evidence is submitted in court that Foster damaged property valued between $300 to $10,000 and an arrest warrant of $10,000 is issued.

In November of 2014, Acting on a warrant from Champaign County, Lockport police approach Foster at his fiancee’s home in New Lenox. He is extradited to the Champaign County Correctional Center.

In December of 2014, the state files an additional charge of violating bail bond, a class 2 felony.

In January of 2015, seeing that Foster is in custody, the City of Champaign considers the possession of drug paraphernalia municipal violation from 2010 is satisfied.

In March of 2015, four felonies against the 33 year-old Foster are dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea to the two counts of residential burglary. For that, Foster is sentenced to 15 years in prison.

To Antwan Foster and his family, the 15-year prison sentence is not fair. Foster reflected on his record in an essay he wrote entitled, All The Wrong Places:

“In my mind, wrong as my case may be, I should have been a cake walk, honestly!!! List my convictions, read them aloud… all [that] will really ring loud is I’m not perfect, didn’t think at times, lacked a little time-consuming activities like a job that would have prevented criminal folly!! But definitely [I’m] NOT a danger, menace, nor ‘extreme’!!”

Foster claims his criminal record is not what it looks like. “The forgery, attempted burglary, and stolen car [were cases] where I was wrongfully accused.” He also denies ever committing a domestic battery. “I do not hit women period, drugs or not. That case was a false report made by a person who created a victim that doesn’t even exist.” Foster also claims one of the past residential burglaries “wasn’t a residential burglary because nothing was stolen. They took advantage of my lack of knowledge of law at the time.” Foster believes the stolen car case should not have warranted a prison sentence either. “I was young and worked for Budget Rental and wanted to be flashy to my peers and was taking the cars unauthorized off the clock and got caught. That’s not prison-worthy simply because everyday I showed up to work and no car was damaged. Yes it was wrong, but prison?” Foster is adamant he has never attacked a police officer. “That’s too crazy for my blood,” he says.

Foster summarized his criminal record, “The fact is that the majority of those 14 convictions are traffic. The other charges are harmless, victimless, and added all up, isn’t worthy of 15 years!” 

For many in the community, including Prosecutor Troy Lozar and Judge Difanis, there’s nothing controversial or noteworthy about Foster. Given ample time and chances, Foster could never conform to the law, therefore, a sentence of 15 years to prison is what happens. Most people have little patience for a guy who goes into other people’s homes and takes their television, whatever the reason. Next.

But for Antwan’s mother and fiancee and his chidren, there is no next, only a daily grieving.

“I miss him everyday,” said Antwan’s mother “His two children are always asking, ‘When will we see Daddy?'”

She alerted Judge Difanis that her son has been battling addiction since his early teen years. Before she bonded Antwan out in May of 2012, she wrote Judge Difanis, “I am in no way condoning his actions, but he has been battling a demon that he has no control over, and because he has no control, he became to hate the person he had become and was contemplating suicide.”

During a moment when Antwan confessed to her how much he hated his life, Antwan let it slip that his dad is the one that introduced him to drugs years ago.

I don’t like the drugs but the drugs like me

Antwan’s mother wrote to Judge Difanis before her son’s sentencing: “If you had the chance to speak with Antwan one on one, I think you would be impressed. He is not the monster Mr. Lozar [the prosecutor] is trying to make him out to be. He is in the grip of a monster that he has no control over. The burglaries were his means to support his addiction.”

Foster started drinking and smoking marijuana at age 15. After his introduction to cocaine, he began lacing his marijuana with cocaine, and by 24, he moved onto crack cocaine. By the time he was 28, he was a daily and heavy crack smoker. Whenever he committed crimes or argued with cops, he was drunk and high.

In thinking about her son’s addiction, Antwan’s mother recalled, “He has said to me that if I walked one day in his shoes, then I would know how tormented he is.”
While Foster considered suicide, “The thought of what that would do to his son kept him from it,” she wrote Judge Difanis.  “He has told me more than once that the only thing keeping him from taking his life is his kids.”

Safe House, an addiction recovery center run by Caanan Baptist Church, offered to take Foster instead of incarcerating him, and Antwan’s mother believed Safe House could have “given him back the life his father and drugs took from him.”
Antwan’s mother assured Judge Difanis of her son’s commitment to recovery, “He is so ready to beat this thing and get back with his family. He wants so much to make his life right, all he needs is a chance.”

Sober the last two years, Foster has grown philosophical about the human condition. He wrote, “No one is immune. No one is exempt, and no one is truly innocent. That’s why, even when we know the right thing to do we often choose to do what is wrong. Deliberately, repeatedly, defiantly, missing the mark of life is due to aiming in the wrong direction. Every person is born with the tendency to do wrong. We may not like to face this truth, and not all fall short and succumb to the evil desires; but still, all in all, nobody’s perfect. We need to understand the depth of our problem before we can fully appreciate recovery from wrongdoing regardless the nature.”

Foster’s “young and dumb” days of outlaw drug-using has been a terrific money maker for the Champaign County criminal justice system. In the years his family has dealt with all of his criminal and traffic cases, they have paid bonds, fees, fines, and court costs totaling, $5,480.00 with $8,865.98 still left to pay. That doesn’t count the private lawyers his mother has hired on her son’s behalf. At a low estimate of $50.00 a-day that it costs to house a person in the Champaign County Correctional Center, Foster’s 1,025 days in the county jail has cost the taxpayers, $51,250 tax dollars.

Foster believes prison sentences are useless toward a drug addiction. “I got caught with personal habitual drugs that I pleaded for help with, [and] who knows where I could’ve been now if the state/judge would’ve helped an addict?”

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