The Joliet man who gouged out his uncle's eye on New Year's Eve asked the judge for mercy. He didn't get any.
"I've been doing this a long time, and I very rarely sentenced someone to the maximum, but I'm sentencing you to the maximum," Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak told Exulam Holman just before sending him off to prison on a 14-year sentence.
Holman's blinded uncle, 63-year-old Clifford Melvin, did not attend the Thursday afternoon sentencing hearing. Instead, a letter from Melvin was read aloud in court.
Melvin's one remaining eye was damaged so badly he can barely see, he said in the letter. He cannot watch television or read without pain, and he can no longer work.
Melvin had moved in with his sister—Holman's mother—Nannetta Johnson eight years before.
Johnson said before the hearing that Melvin was only supposed to stay three months, and blamed her brother for the dispute that left him without an eye.
Johnson said Melvin resents her son because he reminds him of his dead brother Theodore Melvin, who drowned in a quarry about 40 years ago.
"I think that scares my brother, like Theodore came back from the dead to get him," Johnson explained.
Johnson spoke up for her son during the sentencing hearing and told how her brother was unkind to him, always communicating with "a snarl and a growl when he did say anything."
"My brother was cold-hearted," Johnson said. "My son would try to show him love and affection but my brother was in his shell. He didn't want love or affection."
The fight that led to Melvin losing an eye was over a television remote control. It ended with Holman, 33, kneeling on his uncle's arms and shoving his thumbs into his eyes "until they came out of his face," Judge Bertani-Tomczak said.
During the hearing, Sgt. Daniel Jungles and Deputies Andrew Schwartz and Brian Monahan of the Will County Sheriff's Department told of their run-ins with Holman, one of which culminated with a stand-off at his McKay Street home.
Johnson told how her son developed a fear of the police after suing the City of Joliet on a brutality claim and winning a $100,000 settlement in 2000.
"A police officer was kicking him in the face while he was handcuffed on the ground," Johnson said. "Since then he's been afraid of the police. He's been paranoid of the police and it's been one thing after another with the police."
Holman blamed the attack not on his uncle, but on his own struggles with mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction.
"You're honor, I may have done those things, but that's not who I am," he told the judge, adding, "I"m just a man who's made a lot of mistakes."