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Man sentenced to 40 years for attempted murder of ex-wife

Published: Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 1:00 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 11:11 a.m. CST
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Defendent Jamil Saleh is escorted into the courtroom by deputies Nov. 7. Photo by Chris Johnson
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Family members of Jamil Saleh listen to the sentence Ogle County Judge Michael Mallon issued Wednesday afternoon.
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Ogle County Judge Michael Mallon reviews files during the sentencing hearing Nov. 7. Photo by Chris Johnson
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Defendent Jamil Saleh is escorted out of the courtroom by deputies Nov. 7. Photo by Chris Johnson

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An Orland Park man was sentenced to two consecutive 20-year prison sentences Wednesday for attempting to murder his ex-wife when he stabbed her 4 times in a public park in Rochelle.

Jamil Saleh, 42, showed no reaction when Ogle County Judge Mike Mallon read the sentences following the hour-long sentencing hearing. Saleh's sister, one of 4 family members present at the hearing, wept quietly following Mallon's decision.

"I am pleased with the sentence that the court imposed," said assistant state's attorney Mike Rock. "It's an appropriate sentence for the crime that was committed and the fact that the defendant showed no remorse."

On Oct. 16, an Ogle County jury found Saleh guilty of the Class X offense of attempted murder and seven other felonies including armed violence, aggravated domestic battery, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and aggravated battery in a public place.

Mallon sentenced Saleh to 20 years on the attempted murder charge and 20 years on the armed violence charge.

During the trial, Saleh's ex-wife Maha Bergeron, 37, testified that Saleh stabbed her 4 times—twice in the chest—during a meeting with her and their 3 children at Cooper Park in Rochelle on Aug. 13, 2009.

She said she divorced Saleh in April 2009 after 16 years of marriage while he was in Palestine for several months. She said she married Jason Bergeron, a Rochelle police officer, in July 2009.

During the attack, she suffered stab wounds to her chest, hand, and knee and was treated at Rochelle Community Hospital and then transported by helicopter to OSF Medical Center in Rockford. She remained in the intensive care unit for several days.

Several witnesses, including Maha's husband, witnessed the attack and testified at the trial for the prosecution.

Saleh testified at the trial that the divorce and Maha's subsequent remarriage to a police officer had "caught him by surprise" and that he "went berserk" because he had lost his family and kids.

He denied planning the attack, claimed he just wanted to see his kids, and was angry because he had no visitation rights. As a native of Palestine and a Muslim, he testified that he did not want a "white man" raising his children who "hated" his race, religion, and country.

He said he "blanked out" during the incident, but remembered stabbing her once.

On Wednesday, Rock argued that Saleh had shown a "complete lack of remorse" for the attack and was not a good candidate for rehabilitation.

"He still feels he did nothing wrong," said Rock, who asked for 30 year sentences on the attempted murder charge and armed violence charge.

Saleh's attorney, public defender Dennis Riley, who declined comment after the sentencing, asked for the minimum 16-year sentence arguing that Saleh was upset and clinically depressed over the divorce.

"This was a unique circumstance and not a circumstance that was likely to reoccur," Riley said. "He had never behaved like this before."

Saleh read a 7-minute statement during the sentencing hearing, reiterating his trial testimony that he was visiting Palestine when Maha divorced him and that he was "heart broken" over losing custody of his children.

He also characterized prosecutors as "malicious" and "compulsive liars" and called judges in the jurisdiction "corrupt" and "inadequate".

"That man has no dignity," Saleh said, referring to the judge that proceeded over his divorce proceedings. "I was told before going to trial that I would face a judge that was heartless and I knew I would be sentenced on race and religion so it would not be useful for remorse or to ask for leniency."

Mallon said he had considered all factors in the case before reaching his decision.

"Your comment on race and religion struck a cord with me," Mallon said. "For the record, I have some pretty good friends from Palestine I don't think any sentence I render here today would be based on race or religion. It is based on the facts and circumstances of the case."

Saleh has been held in the Ogle County Jail under $5 million bond since his arrest in 2009. Court records indicate numerous defense delays during that time.

The Ogle County Sheriff's Department handled the investigation of the incident at the request of the Rochelle Police Department due to Rochelle officers being witnesses to the incident.

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