U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Central District of Illinois
For Immediate Release
February 19, 2010
Jeffrey B. Lang, Acting United States Attorney
Contact: Sharon Paul
Director of Community Relations
Phone: (217) 492-4450
Fax: (217) 492-4512
Project Safe Neighborhood: South Suburban Chicago Man Charged in Armed Robberies of Convenience Stores
Urbana, Ill. – An April 19, 2010 trial date was set this morning when John A. Widdowson, 33, of South Holland, Illinois, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal in Urbana, Illinois. On Feb. 9, a grand jury returned a seven-count indictment charging Widdowson with three counts of interference of commerce by robbery in January 2010; three counts of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence; and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. Widdowson has been detained in law enforcement custody since his arrest on Jan. 19. Widdowson was previously charged in a criminal complaint filed on Jan. 26.
The indictment alleges Widdowson committed armed robberies of convenience stores and gas stations in Kankakee and Iroquois county in January 2010: on Jan. 12, at Casey’s General Store in Grant Park, Illinois; on Jan. 16, at the Ashkum BP in Ashkum, Illinois; and on Jan. 19, at the Circle K Shell in Grant Park. Widdowson allegedly brandished a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun while committing the robberies. At the time of the robberies, according to the indictment, Widdowson had a prior felony conviction which prohibited him from possession of a firearm.
The charges are the result of an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Kankakee Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force, the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department, Iroquois County Sheriff’s Department, Ashkum Police Department and the Grant Park Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronda Holliman Coleman.
If convicted, for each count of robbery interference with interstate commerce, known as the Hobbs Act, the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison. Brandishing a firearm during a violent crime carries a mandatory minimum of seven years in prison, up to life, to be served consecutive to any term of imprisonment ordered for the underlying crime of violence. Each additional conviction for brandishing a firearm carries a mandatory minimum term of 25 years imprisonment to a maximum term of life imprisonment. The statutory penalty for possession of a firearm by a felon is up to 10 years in prison. All the offenses carry a possible maximum $250,000 fine.
Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.