HAMMOND — Prosecutors pushed back Friday against ex-East Chicago Councilman Robert "Coop" Battle’s plea for a lenient sentence in a 2015 drug murder, saying Battle may be correct he has almost no criminal history, but this does not mean he led “an exemplary life.”
“While this is not a public corruption case, and there is no evidence that Battle abused his position as an East Chicago councilman to facilitate his drug trafficking or murderous conduct, this court should not lose sight of the fact that the defendant committed this murder, and multiple acts of drug trafficking, while serving East Chicago as an elected official,” the U.S. District attorney’s office writes in a sentencing memorandum.
"In fact, he has led a life that has entailed selling narcotics on the streets of the very city he was elected to serve," prosecutors wrote.
Describing his conduct as "extremely troubling," the federal government is seeking a 20-year prison sentence for Battle, who is accused of shooting and killing Reimundo Camarillo Jr. on Oct. 12, 2015, when Camarillo arrived at Battle's home to discuss an outstanding drug debt owed to him.
A 20-year sentence is 30 months above the top of the recommended federal sentencing guideline range, the memo states. Battle is seeking a minimum 10-year sentence, arguing a prolonged imprisonment will neither deter, nor properly rehabilitate him.
“While serving as an elected official in East Chicago, a city historically plagued by corruption and greed, Battle chose to traffic in large quantities of cocaine,” prosecutors wrote. “The defendant’s crime was widely publicized, and has contributed to the severe mistrust of our local officials, particularly those from East Chicago.”
Battle pleaded guilty in June to second-degree murder, which is intentional murder with malice aforethought.
Battle is scheduled to be sentenced 10 a.m. Tuesday. Members of the Camarillo family have said they want U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon to impose the longest sentence possible of 20 years under a plea agreement.
In the government’s filing Friday, they argue Battle was dealing large quantities of cocaine as early as 2006. A 2015 investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration discovered Battle was traveling home Sept. 23, 2015, from a cocaine dealer’s house in Flint, Michigan, when police stopped him on Interstate 94 in Porter County.
The government seized $100,700 wrapped in rubber bands from Battle's car, but allowed Battle to remain free and keep his gun. Battle, in turn, agreed to attempt to make a controlled delivery of money to Camarillo, but Camarillo never showed.
Battle was indicted in 2015 — while still serving as an East Chicago councilman — on one count related to the homicide and four counts linked to possession or distribution of marijuana and cocaine.
Battle's lawyer told the court in 2015 that Camarillo suspected Battle had become a federal informant following that September arrest and confronted him Oct. 12, 2015. He said Battle shot Camarillo in self-defense.
Battle dropped his self-defense argument when he pleaded guilty.
Battle had faced either the death penalty or life imprisonment when first charged, but the plea agreement reduced the maximum sentencing guidelines. He will likely receive credit for the nearly three years in federal detention he already has served while awaiting trial.