CHICAGO (CBS) — The man who admitted to killing an honor student on a crowded CTA bus in 2007 was sentenced to 75 years in prison on Tuesday, a ruling the victim’s father called a “slap in the face.”
Michael Pace, now 27, originally was sentenced to 100 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2009 to the murder of 16-year-old Blair Holt, but an appeals court threw out that sentence, and at a resentencing hearing on Tuesday, a Cook County judge handed down a 75-year prison term.
“The defendant’s actions were evil, they were cold, they were calculated, they were premeditated; with the specific intent to kill,” Judge Matthew Coghlan said in court.
Noting Pace opened fire on a crowded CTA bus when he shot Blair on May 10, 2007, Coghlan said it was lucky no one else was killed. Pace was gunning for a gang rival, and Blair was shot as he shielded a friend from the gunfire.
Blair’s father, Ron Holt, a Chicago police commander, called the reduced sentence for Pace a “slap in the face.”
At Pace’s original sentencing hearing, Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford vented his frustration with gun violence in Chicago, and with the use of expert testimony about Pace’s low IQ and learning disability as the defense sought leniency. Ford had discounted a psychologist’s testimony as a “cop-out,” and a disservice to those with mental disabilities who never commit a crime.
Pace appealed his sentence, and an Illinois Appellate Court panel ruled Ford improperly expressed personal views, and ordered a new judge set a new sentence.
Coghlan sentenced Pace to 75 years in prison on Tuesday. Pace won’t be eligible for parole until he is 85 years old.
Blair’s parents have said they hoped Coghlan would sentence Pace to 100 years again.
“Michael, I am not the type of man who turns the other cheek and allows someone to hit me again. In other words, we should not be here for a second time in ten years to bear witness to your claim of some level of innocence. Being here is a re-visit to the wound of death that never heels. Young man, accept your guilt,” Ron Holt said at a hearing last month.
Blair’s mother, Annette Nance-Holt, a deputy district chief with the Chicago Fire Department, told reporters she believes the original sentence was fair, and she lashed out at a system that she said coddles criminals.
“I shouldn’t have to stand here today for somebody to be resentenced for something they know we did, and we have evidence that they did it,” she said before Tuesday’s hearing. “I think the only reason that we’re here is because they feel sorry for criminals who kill innocent victims in the city of Chicago. I mean, it’s not fair to us as victims to keep reliving this.”