Like a preacher who has reached the end of his sermon, Juan Adame’s voice softened almost to a murmur as he told the man before him, “You’re a righteous man.”
Unfortunately for Adame, he wasn’t preaching to the choir.
He was talking to U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber, who looked as if he’d heard it all before. On Thursday, the judge sentenced the convicted arsonist to 40 years in prison — what federal prosecutors had requested.
Leinenweber said Adame’s crime showed a “total disrespect for humanity.”
Adame, furious that his girlfriend had dumped him, set fire to her Southwest Side apartment in January 2012, inadvertently killing her neighbor, Jimmy Maca, 60.
Adame’s attorney, Beau Brindley, argued Wednesday that his client went to Blanca Ortiz’s apartment not intending to kill her or anyone else. But Leinenweber suggested it was absurd that Adame wouldn’t have known people would be asleep when he set the pre-dawn fire.
“It’s not like taking a gun and shooting Mr. Maca, but it’s awful close,” the judge said.
Brindley said Leinenweber was under no obligation to hand down a 40-year term. The judge disagreed, saying Adame has a long history of mistreating women — including violating various orders of protection — and there “no telling what he’d do,” if allowed back on the streets.
During Adame’s criminal trial, prosecutors portrayed him as Ortiz’s obsessive, controlling lover, who at one point forbid her from taking a trip to Mexico or returning to her stripper job. Jurors also saw home videos Adame had secretly made of Ortiz. When she dumped him, Adame torched Ortiz’s home. She wasn’t home at the time.
A much calmer Adame took the stand Wednesday, alternatively pleading his case to the judge and to Maca’s family, who sat unmoved in the gallery.
“I wasn’t there,” Adame said. “I didn’t do it. There’s proof I didn’t do it.”
Adame said investigators didn’t do enough to look at the evidence — including possible fingerprints — that might have led to someone else’s arrest.
He was asleep when the arsonist set the fire, Adame told Leinenweber. Then why, the judge wondered, didn’t that fact come up at trial?
“For you to say you were at home sleeping is nonsense,” the judge said.