Carly Rousso sentenced to 5 years for “huffing” DUI fatality

roussocourthouseBreaking news from Lake County:

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Dan Hinkel and Susan Berger):

Highland Park woman was sentenced to five years in prison for running over and killing a 5-year-old girl after abusing inhalants.

Carly Rousso, 20, remained calm as she was sentenced to 5 years in prison for reckless homicide and 4 years in prison for aggravated DUI. The sentences are to be served together. She stands to serve about 3 ½ years for time off for good behavior.

Outside the courtroom, Rousso’s mother, Gabrielle Rousso, hugged supporters, wept and repeatedly said of her daughter, “She is so scared.”

Through an interpreter, Tomas Santos de Jesus, father of 5-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento, said he is unhappy with what he saw as a light sentence.

“Her life was taken away in a horrible way,” the interpreter said. ..

Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Rousso to eight years in prison, while defense attorneys requested probation or, failing that, the minimum prison sentence…

On Wednesday morning, prosecutors and defense lawyers worked to present two distinct narratives for Judge Booras’ consideration.

Prosecutors spoke of a heartbroken family and a young victim cut down unexpectedly. Rousso’s lawyers presented their client as a troubled young woman who made a horrific mistake after using substances to numb her own traumas.

Before a courtroom packed with media and supporters of both the defendant and the victim, Assistant State’s Attorney Stella Veytsel read statements written by Jaclyn’s parents, who sat silent near the front. Her mother asked in her statement for the longest prison sentence possible…

“Seeing my daughter killed in front of me is something I cannot put into words,” the girl’s mother, Modesta Sacramento Jimenez, said in the statement.

“It has left a painful void in my life,” she said.

Sacramento Jimenez said she didn’t expect to ever forgive Rousso; she hopes God will, she said.

Called to the stand by defense lawyers, Rousso’s father, David, wept as he described his daughter as a loving person who has matured in the last two years.

“She’s an extraordinarily wonderful human being who made a terrible mistake,” he said…

Public sentiments in the high-profile case have been colored by race and class, with the defendant coming from a prosperous family and the victim from a Hispanic family of modest income. Rousso’s lawyers have noted she is adopted and her biological mother is Mexican-American.

Rousso’s sentencing hearing was unusual in that the defense called multiple therapists who confirmed what her lawyers have contended – that Rousso suffered childhood miseries, the effects of which lingered even after years of professional help arranged by her parents. They said Rousso’s traumas included her adoption, rejection by her peers, bullying, her rape as a teenager by an acquaintance and a pit bull attack that disfigured her face and left her with some 400 stitches…

After the pit bull attack disfigured her face, David Rousso said, kids made fun of her appearance.

One of her therapists, Heather Keith, said Rousso was hospitalized multiple times after the crash out of concern for her safety. She reported feeling suicidal, Keith said. Prosecutors asked questions that elicited answers noting that Rousso continued using alcohol and inhalants while she was free on bond after the crash.

Rousso’s past diagnoses have included major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which therapists said were linked to her traumatic childhood. Keith said it is common for people suffering PTSD to use intoxicants to try to escape their pain.

I am not very comfortable second-guessing sentencing.  But typically a case like this would result in a sentence closer to the range that the prosecutors were seeking than the probation sentence Rousso’s attorneys were seeking, or even the five year sentence that she received.  This is not a typical case, however, in that the defendant is a young woman with no background and with issues of her own (which she has worked on and not tried to use an excuse, merely an explanation for her conduct).  That much was obvious when the judge did not take her into custody immediately after finding her guilty.  That he let her remain on bond had me thinking that he was seriously considering probation.

Clearly, Rousso’s attorneys helped her cause tremendously by presenting evidence of her depression and treatment, as well as her remorse for her actions.  I am speculating, but I also suppose that her attorneys counseled her to make serious changes in her life and helped orchestrate sympathetic press events like the one I posted a few weeks ago where she spoke to young people about how her attempts to escape her problems by inhaling cleaning fluids lead to a young girl’s death.

Five years is a comparatively light sentence for what she did.  But it is still a very significant sentence, especially for a 20 year old who has never been in prison before.  I hope that Jaclyn’s family will find some peace, and I hope that Carly is able to use this experience to transform herself into something better.

Josh Gordon pleads guilty to DUI to avoid new penalty before new NFL penalties go into effect

From ProFootballTalk.com:

Browns receiver Josh Gordon has pleaded guilty to driving while impaired.  Under the new drug policy, a first offense will trigger a two-game suspension.  Under the old drug policy, a first offense ordinaily results in no suspension and a maximum fine of $50,000.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Gordon pleaded guilty now to ensure that he will not receive an automatic, mandatory two-game suspension for the DUI charges.  (Under the old drug policy, a suspension is possible for first-offense DUI, if a player has had other issues under the substance-abuse policy.)

The guilty plea was submitted by Gordon’s lawyer; he was not required to appear personally in court.  In exchange for the plea, Gordon received a 60-day suspended sentence.  He also must pay a $100 fine. His driver’s license has been suspended.

 

After politician was falsely arrested for DUI, New Jersey mandates dash cam videos for police

This is a follow-up to a story I blogged about two years ago, about a New Jersey politician, Paul Moriarty who was arrested for DUI.  The officer’s dash cam video proved that the officer followed Moriarty and pulled him over for no reason, lied about his reason for the stop, then treated him with contempt as he barked out orders for field tests (which Moriarty passed).  Moriarty later went to a hospital for a blood test which showed that he had no alcohol in his system.  You can read my original post here:  https://illinoisduilawyer.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/dash-cam-videos-raises-questions-about-nj-pols-dui-arrest/

Assemblyman Moriarty was vindicated by the video and he has helped to ensure that others will not be falsely accused, by sponsoring a bill which requires that all New Jersey municipal police cars be equipped with cameras.

From NJ.com:

A law requiring all new municipal police patrol vehicles be equipped with video cameras was signed into law on Wednesday, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4 of Washington Township) said.

Moriarty, who sponsored the bill after an in-car camera captured his 2012 DWI arrest and provided evidence that lead to a dismissal of all charges, said Governor Chris Christie signed the bill Wednesday evening.

The bill requires all municipal police departments to equip newly purchased or leased vehicles that are used primarily for traffic stops with an in-car camera, or equip patrol officers with body cameras as a more affordable option.

A $25 surcharge on DWI convictions was set aside by the legislation to provide funding for the new equipment.

The bill was initially approved by both the state Assembly and Senate during the last legislative session, but was pocket-vetoed by the governor when he declined to either veto or sign the bill…

The impetus for the bill came from Moriarty’s 2012 arrest on DWI charges in his hometown of Washington Township, where he previously served as mayor.

A recording of the arrest showed multiple discrepancies between arresting officer Joseph DiBuonaventura’s pursuit of Moriarty and what DiBuonaventura wrote about the incident in subsequent police reports.

Prosecutors cited the video as evidence Moriarty — who has vehemently denied drinking that day — was illegally stopped and targeted by DiBuonaventura, who is now facing 14 criminal charges including official misconduct, falsifying a police report and harassment.

Moriarty has said that the video of the incident was crucial to proving his innocence, and against the odds, since only nine out of the township’s 50 patrol cars were equipped with cameras.

“As recent controversies have shown, it helps to have video footage to back up claims of excessive force and abuse of authority against civilians. Conversely, there are many good officers who have been wrongly accused of impropriety and this measure is designed to ensure their protection as well,” said Moriarty, who also serves as Chairman of the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

Thanks to Springfield, Illinois attorney Ted Harvatin for posting about this new development.

Pistons’ Greg Monroe gets suspended for 2 games for DUI

The Detroit Pistons’ Greg Monroe has been suspended two games for a DUI arrest which had not been made public until he plead guilty earlier this month.

Click the attached link to see video of Monroe’s arrest: http://video-embed.mlive.com/services/player/bcpid1949050400001?bctid=3778611939001&bckey=AQ~~,AAAAQBxUr7k~,PsMaWpexSO1o2JBTRvXgK2F46WvPiWEP

According to the website MLive:

Detroit Pistons’ forward Greg Monroe, who is facing a two-game suspension after NBA officials learned he pleaded guilty to impaired driving in April, “urinated on himself during the booking process,” the Huntington Woods police report documenting his arrest says.

Huntington Woods police released video footage of the Feb. 13 stop and arrest, which stemmed from a defective headlight, on Wednesday.

“I’m just trying not to be in the newspaper,” Monroe is heard saying to the officers during his transport to jail.

“I play for the Pistons,” Monroe said.

“You play for the Detroit Pistons,” asks one of the officers in the vehicle. “Unless you told people that are going to tell people, we don’t tell people,” an officer is heard saying.

Monroe failed the field sobriety test, missing a letter while reciting the Alphabet with “slow and deliberate speech,” swaying when asked to count backwards to 78 from 100 and unable to walk a straight line, the report says.

Riding in the passenger seat of the 2007 Pontiac G6 was the vehicle owner, a woman whom police transported to headquarters to await a ride. Police impounded the vehicle and report that the license plate had expired.

Monroe told police he and his passenger were coming from Bosco’s, a bar in Ferndale, where Monroe had had two glasses of wine…

The field breath test revealed Monroe had a .089 blood-alcohol level that, when tested by the official Data Master at the station, registered a .09 and then a .1.

Police stopped Monroe about 1:50 a.m., according to the dash-cam, and the in-station sobriety test was conducted about 3:20 a.m.

Monroe was suspended without pay and will miss games Oct. 29 in Denver and Oct. 30 in Minnesota.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and made a regrettable mistake,” Monroe said in a prepared statement released by the Pistons. “I apologize to my family, the Pistons organization, my teammates and fans. I will learn from this and continue by work to be a positive influence in the community.”

 

DUIs in the news

Here are some recent notable DUI stories:

Former Packer TE Colt Lyerla was arrested in Washington for allegedly driving under the influence of drugs.

Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera was arrested in California for driving under the influence of marijuana.

Former “Partridge Family” star David Cassidy plead guilty to misdemeanor DWI (which had been reduced from felony DUI) in upstate New York.  He was sentenced to community service and alcohol treatment.

A woman who had just been sentenced to probation for an aggravated DUI allegedly drove while intoxicated and struck an Illinois State Trooper who was on the shoulder of I-294.  The woman then attempted to leave the scene and then hit an SUV, causing it to flip over, injuring seven passengers. She is now charged with multiple counts of aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.

An Ohio judge, who is known for conducting DUI trials at a high school as a warning to students not to drink and drive, was arrested for DUI.  I am concerned to hear about this judge’s practice of holding trials to demonstrate the evils of drunk driving.  This implies to me that the judge has already made up his mind before the trial.  I doubt he would want to find someone not guilty in that environment, lest he might be teaching the kids that it is okay to drink and drive so long as you are not impaired.  Hopefully he learns a lesson about how important it is to have an impartial trial instead of a show trial.

My rebuttal to the Tribune’s article about DUI plea deals

There was an article this weekend in the Chicago Tribune, decrying the tendency of some prosecutors (mainly village prosecutors in DuPage County) to agree to rescind the mandatory license suspension that comes with most DUI cases, in return for a plea on the underlying DUI case.

In my opinion, the article was one-sided and made “compromise” sound like a dirty word.

So, why should prosecutors make such deals?

1.  To avoid losing cases.  In a DUI case, the state has the burden of proving that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol beyond a reasonable doubt.  In many cases, the only evidence to support a DUI conviction is the arresting officer’s opinion that the defendant was intoxicated, which, however educated, is still just an opinion.  However, the license suspension will be upheld unless the defendant can show that the officer did not have even a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was under the influence.  That is a significantly lower threshhold than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Many cases fall between the two standards of proof.  The plea for rescission deal can be an incentive to get a defendant to plea without a trial, or other pre-trial motions.

When prosecutors agree to a “rescind suspension for plea” deal, they are taking a risk in giving a defendant his license back.  But they are also getting the certainty that the person will plead guilty, and be required to undergo alcohol treatment.  If that person gets a subsequent DUI, now he will be subject to a heightened penalty.  If they went to trial and lost, none of this would happen.

The defendant is taking a gamble that he or she will never get arrested for DUI again. If the gamble turns out wrong and he or she is arrested again, that prior DUI on his or her record will lead to a significantly harsher sentence on the new case.

2.  To avoid a backlog of cases.  Our courtrooms are backed up, especially in DuPage.  In DuPage, the judge will go through the “trial call” in the morning.  Usually, due to volume, most of the cases are continued until the afternoon, or even the following day or month.  If suddenly another 20% of the summary suspension and DUI hearings went to hearing, the system would break down.

I have seen this happen before.  From time to time, to show how tough they are on DUIs, prosecutors will not agree to any deals.  This means cases that should have been dropped or worked out instead go to trial.  As a result, a courtroom full of defendants, police, witnesses and attorneys will be sitting waiting for all the trials ahead of the them to conclude.  The officers are getting paid overtime while they wait, so this can be a big burden for small municipalities.  And, oftentimes, those witnesses or police officers will have left the building by the time their case is called for trial.

3.  There isn’t much else to bargain with in a DUI case.  Most DUI sentences are set by law; there is mandatory alcohol treatment, fines, victim impact panels and (in some cases) community service and/or jail.  The summary suspension is the biggest bargaining chip that a prosecutor has to induce a defendant to plead guilty.

4.  For fairness.  These laws do not affect everyone equally.  Some people have jobs that require that they drive.  Some people have family members that they have to take care of.  Some people have CDLs and a DUI suspension will mean a one year disqualification of that license.

A plea for rescission deal can allow these people to drive while still requiring them to do alcohol treatment, pay hefty fines, follow the law and/or whatever else is part of the plea deal.

5. Because our state government hasn’t acted.  Our summary suspension law has a provision that says that the driving permit will not be effective until after 30 days of suspension.  The reason for this law, when created, was to get drunks off the road for a period of time before allowing them back with a restricted license.  The rationale for this 30 day “hard time” rule evaporated once Illinois required installation of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) as part of the permit. With the BAIID, you can’t drive drunk.  So why do we still have a 30 day hard time period?  Simply, put, government inertia.  It had been required under a Federal Highway appropriations bill, but Congress removed this provision once states began requiring BAIIDs. But Illinois has yet to amend their law.

For someone who must drive for work, this 30 day period means that he or she may lose their job and health benefits, and not be able to support their families.  It is reasonable that a prosecutor can see the injustice of this law and see no point in turning a first offender into an unemployed person whose children need goverment aid to get by.

6.  Yes, to raise money.  Yes, the Tribune article emphasizes that local prosecutors will often require a larger than usual fine in return for a plea for rescission deal.  Well, it should not be surprising to anyone that municipalities see DUIs as a money-making opportunity.  With each DUI, they charge a large impoundment fee, receive court fines, and become eligible for federal funding (See here and here).  Instead of a reinstatement fee that goes to the Secretary of State, or BAIID fees that go to private companies, these towns would like to see the money flow towards them.  I don’t see what is wrong with that.  Would the Tribune prefer that everyone pay higher taxes instead?

Colts owner Irsay pleads guilty to DUI; Spencer Ware arrested for DUI again

wareDUI remains a hot topic in the NFL.  Yesterday, there were two more stories:

From CNN:

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay pleaded guilty Tuesday to one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, according to the NFL. Irsay also received one year probation and will continue treatment. He will also have to pay $368.50 in court costs.

Shortly thereafter, the NFL announced it was suspending Irsay for the Colts’ first six regular-season games. He was also fined $500,000 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy…

The suspension takes effect at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. Irsay will not be allowed at the Colts’ facility, cannot attend practices or games and cannot represent the team at league meetings or league committee meetings or at any other team or league event. He is also barred from media interviews and can’t engage in social media regarding matters about the NFL or the Colts.

The $500,000 fine is the maximum allowed under league rules.

And from the Seattle Times:

Former Seahawk running back Spencer Ware was arrested on suspicion of DUI this morning in Maple Valley.

Court records show he was booked into jail in Kent at 3:21 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The case has  been referred to the Maple Valley prosecutor’s office.

It is the second DUI arrest in nine months for Ware as he was also cited on Jan. 12. However, that case was dismissed in July after a judge ruled that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion of DUI at the time he initiated the traffic stop. The judge suppressed all of the evidence gathered thereafter, including the BAC test, and dismissed the case.

Ware, a sixth-round pick in 2013 out of LSU, played in two games for the Seahawks last season before suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. He was eventually placed on Injured Reserve.

Ware was released by the Seahawks on Saturday when the team cut its roster from 75 to the regular season maximum of 53. He has yet to be picked up by another team.