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Bomb threat caller sent to prison

PRINCETON – The man responsible for calling in two bomb threats to north Princeton businesses in December 2011 and January 2012 was sentenced to two years in the Illinois Department of Corrections on Friday.

“Probation would deprecate the seriousness of this offense,” said Bureau County Circuit Judge Marc Bernabei in issuing his ruling to Kristofer Watson, 25.

Watson had pleaded guilty to the charge of disorderly conduct, a Class 3 felony on Feb. 26.

On Dec. 10, Watson made a call to AmericInn in Princeton regarding a bomb threat at the Burger King restaurant. He made a second similar call to Culver’s Restaurant regarding a bomb at the McDonald’s restaurant on Jan. 4, 2012.

Watson’s wife, Brandi Watson, testified her husband had some mental health issues that needed to be addressed, and he was receiving counseling and medication through her insurance. She said her husband provided care for her 4-year-old and 2-year-old children as well as her ailing grandmother.

Brandi Watson urged Bernabei for probation rather than a jail sentence.

“It would tear my kids apart,” she said.

Watson gave an unsworn statement from the defense desk. He said he suffered from a lot of unresolved emotional issues, and he wasn’t thinking logically when he called in the bomb threats, and he had no intent to have anyone hurt.

“I understand completely that what I did was wrong, and it should never have happened,” he said. “I would never dream of doing anything like that again.”

Bernabei said state law calls for probation for Watson’s offense, but allows for incarceration for two to five years depending on the mitigating circumstances.

Bureau County State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann said Watson seemed to be a contradiction and asked for a sentence of three years.

“I don’t know what to believe,” Herrmann said. “I don’t see a connection between calling in the bomb threat and any mental illness.”

Watson’s other attorney, Robert Boucher, said Watson’s offense was “very, very serious,” and that people should not have to live under threats of bomb scares. However, Boucher said Watson has been making the right decisions since his release in February 2012. He has appeared in court regularly, had no subsequent offenses, is in counseling, and has received prescription medical treatment.

After weighing both arguments for about 30 minutes, Bernabei said his decision was difficult because there were “powerful” arguments on both sides.

Bernabei said he based his two-year sentence factors including Watson’s criminal history, which included several convictions, including two for violent misdemeanors. Another factor is the seriousness of a bomb threat in the light of the current environment.

However, Bernabei chose to impose a lesser sentence due to several factors, including Watson’s guilty plea, his mental and physical problems, and lack of recent criminal activity.

Watson was immediately remanded into the custody of the sheriff’s department. He was ordered to pay $4,635 in fines and costs, and agreed to pay $1,090 in restitution to the city of Princeton.

With time served and good behavior, Watson could be released in six months.

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