Bethune sentence

Gaege Bethune (above) was convicted of the Feb. 1 murder of Indian American former Southern Illinois University student Pravin Varughese. (India-West file photo)

Five days before he was scheduled to be sentenced for the murder of Indian American Pravin Varughese, Gaege Bethune has hired new attorneys with the hope of delaying his sentencing.

Bethune, convicted in June for killing the former Southern Illinois University student in 2014, fired his attorney Michael Wepsiec Aug. 6, and told Jackson County (Murphysboro, Illinois) Circuit Court  Judge Mark Clarke that he was not satisfied with the quality of representation. “I, Gaege Bethune do not want Mike Wepsiec as my attorney,” wrote Bethune in an Aug. 6 letter to Clarke. “I do not have any legal representation and am desperately looking.”

Clarke Aug. 9 granted Wepsiec’s motion to withdraw as Bethune’s counsel. This is the second time Wepsiec had filed that motion. The first motion was denied by the judge, but this second motion was granted. Bethune is now being represented by attorneys Steven Greenberg and T. Liam Kelly, reported local news outlets.

Earlier in the week, Clarke had said he intends to go ahead with the Aug. 15 sentencing, but it is unclear as to whether he will now keep that date, given Bethune’s new attorneys. A status hearing has been set for Aug. 13.

Jurors June 14 found Bethune guilty of murder with aggravated battery in the 2014 death of Varughese, 19 at the time he was killed, but not guilty of murder with robbery. Despite a not guilty verdict on the second charge, Bethune nevertheless faces a 20 to 60 year state prison sentence, Special Prosecutor David Robinson told India-West after the jury returned its verdict.

Prosecutors maintained the intoxicated men fought while driving around Carbondale looking for cocaine in February 2014, with Bethune causing head injuries that left Varughese disoriented and led to his hypothermia death. Defense lawyer Michael Wepsiec argued Bethune’s punches didn’t cause fatal injuries.

Varughese's body was found on Feb. 18, 2014, five days after he was reported missing.

Varughese’s mother, Lovely Varughese, has kept up a four-year attempt to gain justice for her son, after law enforcement initially concluded that the young man had died of hypothermia. The Varugheses got an independent medical examiner who concluded that Varughese died of blunt force trauma.

(See earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2LVvXpI)

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