Lawrence County Sheriff's Department Deputy Kyle Gilmore had waited a long time to feel some relief.
He was finally able to do so on Friday after his attempted killer, Keith D. "Skinny" McKinney, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in Lawrence Circuit Court.
"It's definitely a relief for my family and I," said Gilmore, who attended the sentencing with his wife, Monica. "It's good to know that all my law enforcement family isn't going to have to deal with Mr. McKinney, probably for a long time, also."
Under terms of the sentence handed down by Lawrence County Circuit Court Judge Robert M. Hopkins at the conclusion of the 45-minute hearing, McKinney was ordered to spend 35 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections on a charge of attempted first-degree murder. He received lighter sentences of aggravated discharge of a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, and those will run concurrently with the 35-year term.
McKinney, 57, was convicted by a jury of eight women and four men of the three charges on Aug. 3, at the conclusion of a four-day trial. A fourth charge, aggravated battery, was dropped by the prosecution during the course of the trial.
Reportedly, at one point during the case the prosecution offered McKinney at 15-year prison term, which he rejected.
The charges stemmed from an incident on Feb. 22, 2016 in the 1300 block of Lawrenceville's Washington Avenue, during which McKinney shot Lawrence County Sheriff's Department Deputy Kyle Gilmore, as Gilmore was attempting to execute a traffic stop on McKinney.
Gilmore returned fire on McKinney during the altercation, striking McKinney in the legs.
McKinney's defense attorney, David Benny, Newton, was not surprised with the sentence.
"It's probably about where I would have expected it to fall," he said.
However, Benny hinted that the case is probably not finished. Although he does not do appellate work, Benny said an appeal is likely. According to Hopkins at the sentencing, McKinney has 30 days to file for an appeal.
"It's not over for Skinny now," Benny said. "He's got the right to appeal the conviction and I have a strong sense that he's going to do that."
The attempted murder charge is a Class X felony in Illinois, which means that at least 85 percent of the sentence must be served before a convict can be considered for early release, for any reason. McKinney was given credit for 614 days spent in Lawrence County Jail since the incident. Taking that into consideration, the earliest he could possible be released is just a little less than 30 years, which means he would be into his upper 80s.
Just as during the trial, McKinney did not take the stand during his sentencing hearing. Two relatives, a cousin and a sister, testified as character witnesses on his behalf. The state called no witnesses during the proceeding.
Benny argued for leniency, given McKinney's age and "health factors." As was the case during the trial, McKinney sat in a wheelchair during the sentencing. Instead of the shirt and slacks he wore during the trial, he was clad in jail-issued prison stripes on Friday.
Matthew Goetten, a special prosecutor at the Illinois Office of State's Attorneys who tried the case, argued for a stronger sentence based upon McKinney's past criminal history, which included felony convictions. Goetten stressed that a bullet-proof vest saved Gilmore's life that day, and that if the bullet had not struck the vest, McKinney would likely have been on trial for murder, rather than attempted murder.
Friday's sentencing hearing was twice delayed, due to various factors. It was originally scheduled for Oct. 6, but was postponed until Oct. 20, at which time is was pushed back one more week.