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BLOOMINGTON - Facing a lengthy prison sentence for dealing cocaine, Aaron Booth agreed about a year ago to help police gather evidence against some of the Twin City's most powerful drug dealers.

Within weeks, Booth was in the hospital after being shot three times, he says by the very drug dealers he promised to help police catch.

So the 30-year-old Chicago man told a jury Wednesday his fear of being attacked again was the reason he didn't show up for a sentencing hearing for the cocaine charges in February 2005.

The McLean County Circuit Court jury on Wednesday rejected his explanation and convicted Booth of violating a bail bond.

Booth now faces between 13 and 44 years in prison when he's sentenced next month by Judge James Souk on the two cases, according to prosecutors.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Malin told jurors staying out of prison was the only reason Booth failed to show at his sentencing hearing last year.

Booth vowed in December 2004 to help police make cases against suspected drug dealers. But he never followed up on the promise, said Jeff Horve, the county's top prosecutor in drug cases.

Defense attorney John Wright argued getting shot was the reason Booth stopped cooperating with authorities.

With high-profile courthouse shootings occurring in recent years, Wright said his client had a reasonable fear of being harmed on the day he skipped his sentencing hearing.

Horve, testifying for prosecutors, said Booth never filled out a police report after the shooting. Authorities believe they know who shot him, but Booth has refused to cooperate, Horve told jurors.

Booth will make his next court appearance March 13 for sentencing on the cocaine charges.

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