Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ottawa man gets 15 years prison in drug-gun plea

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An Ottawa man linked to aa pair of “stash houses” of guns and drugs pleaded guilty Monday to three felonies and was sentenced to 15.5 years in prison.

Thomas J. Higgins, 45, was scheduled for jury trial Monday in La Salle County Circuit Court. Before jury selection could begin, attorneys announced a comprehensive plea agreement.

Higgins pleaded guilty to one count each of armed violence and armed habitual criminal, both Class X felonies filed Dec. 4 after he was linked to a pistol, about 17 grams of cocaine and what prosecutors termed an “AK-47-type” rifle.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to a controlling sentence of 15 years, six months. The prison term is subject to day-for-day good time and Higgins could, with time-served and other credits, be released as early as 2031.

Higgins also pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, a Class 2 felony carrying an extended sentence of three to 14 years. That resolves charges from a May 2023 incident in which police seized a pistol that tested positive for his DNA. The 14- and 15.5-year terms will run concurrently.

“I’d just like to apologize to my family and friends,” Higgins said, when offered a chance to speak, “I was always taught to be a man and accept responsibility for my actions, and that’s what I’m doing today.”

La Salle County State’s Attorney Joe Navarro said he reviewed the facts of the case and signed off on the disposition.

“It was fair in light of all the circumstances,” he said, “and Higgins will be doing substantial time.”

A companion case remains pending. Brennen Lee Jorgenson, 28, of Marseilles will appear Thursday for a status hearing on three Class X drug felony charges plus seven counts of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon.

On paper, Higgins and Jorgenson’s cases are separate. But an undercover agent with the Tri-County Drug Enforcement Narcotics team said a confidential informant tipped off drug agents that Higgins was in possession of a prohibited firearm and had access to a stash house in Marseilles.

The stash house was later identified as Jorgenson’s residence, prosecutors said. Drug agents seized eight illegal firearms including a Glock pistol modified to be fully automatic and multiple high-capacity magazines and an array of illicit drugs including 26 pounds of purported psilocybin mushrooms (believed to be a La Salle County record).

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