Murder in drug deal nets defendant 45 years

  •  Clifford Powers

    Clifford Powers

Published: 6/12/2009 4:44 PM | Updated: 6/12/2009 4:44 PM

Two 18-year-old kids on the wrong side of the law met in a Libertyville parking lot Nov. 6, 2007 and catastrophe ensued.

Bernard Soya died that day when a bullet was fired into his head, and Clifford Powers learned Friday he will be an old man before he gets out of prison.

Powers, now 21, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the murder that occurred as Powers attempted to steal the half-pound of marijuana Soya had brought to sell him.

"This is really a tragedy for two families," Circuit Judge Fred Foreman said. "It shows that drugs and a gun can be a lethal combination."

Soya, once an all-state swimmer for Deerfield High School, had been contacted by people who knew him and Powers to set up the deal. Powers, who lived in Antioch and worked side-by-side with his father at construction jobs most days, was supposed to bring Soya $2,450 for the marijuana but brought a semiautomatic handgun instead.

Prosecutors and Powers' defense attorney differ on exactly what happened during the confrontation, but neither view of the events changes the end result.

Powers was convicted after a week-long trial in January, and faced a sentence of 45 to 60 years in prison.

Patricia Powers told Foreman on Friday that her son was consumed with remorse and had worked hard in the nearly two years he has been in jail on his education.

"What happened was a terrible thing, but Cliff is not a terrible person," she said. "He is not a person to be thrown away."

Bernard Soya Sr. said his son had been traveling around the country just prior to being killed, but was settling down and getting ready to head off to college.

"He was a good kid but he wasn't perfect," the victim's father said in a statement to the court. "I started crying when I heard he had been murdered, and I still cry to this day."

Assistant State's Attorney Dan Kleinhubert asked Foreman to impose a sentence of 60 years, saying Soya had been killed through a design without reason.

"It was not smart that he was involved in drugs," Kleinhubert said. "But it should not have cost him his life."

Defense attorney Greg Nikitas asked for the minimum, insisting Powers' original intent was not to harm Soya.

"This has been characterized many times as an execution, but we would argue a different view," Nikitas said. "There was a struggle, and as an unfortunate result of that struggle, Mr. Soya died."