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ESCAPEE RECEIVES A LIGHT SENTENCE

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An Illinois man who escaped while on his way to a federal halfway house in Salt Lake City because he feared drug use among the Utah inmates was given the lightest sentence possible Thursday.

Utah federal Judge David Sam told Jerry Robert Petty, 28, Plano, Ill., he will serve another 27 months in prison. But he said Petty will receive credit for the 11 months he has been in custody since his arrest last November.The judge also ruled the defendant's sentence for escape from federal custody will run concurrently with any remaining time on a four-year prison term on his earlier Utah federal court conviction on mail theft charges.

Petty had served about one-third of the 4-year sentence when he was released from a prison in Washington state. He was to travel unguarded to Utah to serve at least 30 days in the Salt Lake federal halfway house.

When he arrived in Utah one year ago, Petty did not report to the Salt Lake facility. He was arrested Nov. 2, 1988.

Defense attorney Michael Martin said Petty escaped "because of his fear of being involved with drugs at the halfway house." Martin said Petty "has spent most of his adult life in prison for crimes related to drug use."

Petty told Sam, "I'd like to apologize. I realize how dumb I've been for not going to the halfway house. I don't feel very good about what I've done."