On the morning of Feb. 14, 2017, Latoya L. Hill sat in front of Rock County Judge John Wood, who sentenced her to two years of probation.
On Tuesday morning—364 days later—Hill appeared again in Wood’s courtroom, where she again was sentenced to probation.
This time, it was a five-year term both parties agreed to after Hill pleaded guilty to first-degree recklessly endangering safety, which carries a maximum sentence of 12 years and six months in prison.
Hill pleaded guilty last week to shooting at a man at the Janesville Holiday Inn Express after a fight between the two spilled into the hallway. The man told police he tried to pay Hill for sex using an app called Meetme.com, but she showed up with a gun and tried to rob him, according to the criminal complaint.
Hill will spend some time behind bars.
The Nov. 21 hotel scuffle violated her probation for an October 2016 incident in which she pleaded no contest to criminal damage to property. Counts of child abuse by recklessly causing harm and criminal trespassing were dismissed but read into the record.
For that case, Wood sentenced Hill to nine months in jail—the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor. Hill has 170 days of jail-time credit, although District Attorney David O’Leary said he needed to double-check that number.
Hill will have work-release privileges while in jail.
Wood said he considered sentencing Hill to prison. He called her performance on probation “abysmal.”
“You’ve demonstrated to me that probation hasn’t worked,” he said. “So I gave you a second chance, and you basically spit in my face. And I don’t take that lightly.”
Then there was the matter of the gun. Wood said Hill could have shot innocent bystanders in the hotel, including the witness who saw the fight and wrestled the gun away. O’Leary called that witness a “good Samaritan.”
Ultimately, Wood accepted the joint recommendation from O’Leary and Hill’s lawyer, Ashley Morse.
Hill’s age was the reason Wood gave for not sending her to prison.
A high school graduate from Beloit, Hill turns 21 in May. She will have the prison term hanging over her head if she slips up again, Wood said.
“I’m going to give you your last second chance,” he said.
O’Leary began his argument Tuesday by explaining the difficulty of proving parts of the case. The victim lives in Canada and was “not cooperative,” which is “the politest way I can say it,” O’Leary said.
The man was afraid of losing his job if he returned to the United States and acknowledged he was robbed while soliciting prostitution, O’Leary explained. A count of robbery with use of force was dismissed and read in, per the plea agreement.
During the struggle, O’Leary said Hill was trying to point the gun at the two men.
“He (the victim) had the fear of God in his face,” O’Leary said, referring to what the other man reported about the incident.
O’Leary said he approved of the probation sentence because prison would act like a “hammer hanging over her head.”
Morse said Hill moved frequently during her childhood. She was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bullied in school. She witnessed violence and substance abuse, and she knows what it’s like to be a victim, Morse said.
Wood called Hill’s upbringing a “tragedy.”
Hill prepared a written statement, but she said she was too nervous to read it. Morse read it for her.
“Your honor, I ask for forgiveness for my behavior on probation. And I would be more than happy to receive help to proceed in life from someone who truly cares,” Morse read. “I know who I truly am and where I want to be, and being locked up away can’t help me to see life for what it truly is.”