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Judge refuses to extend deadline for Curl

Published: Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 11:47 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 11:19 p.m. CDT
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SYCAMORE – For William “Billy” Curl, a missed deadline is a missed deadline.

DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert sided with prosecutors Monday who argued she didn’t have the authority to give Curl, 37, of DeKalb, more time to ask to withdraw his plea agreement.

That means Curl is headed back to prison to serve a 37-year sentence, although he can still file a post-conviction petition to argue that the process surrounding his plea agreement violated his Constitutional rights. On April 3, Curl entered a special plea agreement in which he maintained his innocence but acknowledged prosecutors could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he murdered Northern Illinois University student Antinette “Toni” Keller.

Keller, an 18-year-old from Plainfield, told friends Oct. 14, 2010, that she was going for a walk in Prairie Park in DeKalb. Part of her body was found burned in the park two days later.

Curl gave authorities conflicting accounts of what had happened to Keller, but prosecutors did not have any eyewitnesses, a murder weapon, or evidence of a time or cause of death to present at trial.

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack emphasized in April that the agreement assured Curl would remain in prison until he was 71, while an acquittal was possible in any trial.

Curl had 30 days to try to withdraw the plea agreement, but he did not file the appropriate paperwork until July 22, more than three months later. DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Klein argued that Stuckert didn’t have the authority to toss out the agreement or to extend the deadline once it had passed.

“Outside that 30 days, the court loses jurisdiction,” Klein said.

Daniel Transier, a defense attorney recently appointed to defend Curl, argued that the 30-day deadline should be extended because it wasn’t Curl’s fault he missed it.

Curl was unable to contact his lawyer or to gather necessary materials because he was placed in an isolation room at Stateville Correctional Center five days after formalizing the plea agreement, Transier said in court documents. The 30-day deadline had passed by the time he was transferred to Menard Correctional Center and could consult an attorney.

Now, Curl faces no deadline to file a post-conviction petition in DeKalb County Circuit Court, Klein said.

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