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Senate Panel OKs Bill Targeting Abusive Spouses

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Urged on by a Joliet woman who survived two days of captivity and torture at the hands of an abusive husband, an Illinois Senate committee Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would subject those convicted of domestic torture to stiffer prison sentences.

“This law is necessary so that other women who find themselves in my place know there are strong sentences to protect them from their abusers when they follow through with their prosecutions,” said Rebecca Mercado, who told the committee that she endured six years of abuse at the hands of her husband.

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The years of abuse came to a head in July 2009, when husband Eric Mercado-Hernandez held her captive, battered her with his fists, a broom handle and a piece of wood trim, threw a table on her and burned keepsakes — while forcing two of their children to watch.

Mercado said she survived because when her husband used the bathroom and forgot to take their phone with him, she called 911.

Mercado-Hernandez received a 41/2 year prison sentence, just short of the current maximum of 5 years, but neither Mercado nor Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow consider that enough.

With credit for good time served, Mercado-Hernandez could be released in January.

As a result, Glasgow asked State Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Plainfield) to sponsor legislation increasing the penalty.

The measure has already won approval in the Illinois House. The House version would increase the penalty from a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2-to-5 years in prison to the Class X level of 6-to-30 years.

The Senate version of the bill, which now goes to the floor, would elevate domestic torture to a Class 1 felony, punishable by a 4-to-15 year sentence, although judges would have the option of doubling the sentence in “especially heinous” cases.

“It’s a Class 3 felony to torture an animal,” Glasgow said. “So we’re asking you to make it a Class 1 felony to torture a human being.”

The measure now goes to the Senate floor.

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