Orthopedic Surgeon Gets 6 years for Aggravated DUI


Here is an interesting news item:  an orthopedic surgeon, who according to the Chicago Tribune headline has had seven previous DUI citations (I’ll get back to that in a moment), received a sentence of six years in prison from a Rolling Meadows Judge after being found guilty last April.

This is what the Tribune said about his background:

According to court records and authorities, Malik pleaded guilty to DUI in DuPage County in 2002 and again in 2007. He was also cited for DUI in Cicero in 2004 and in Franklin Park in 2005; though in the Cicero case, the DUI was stricken from his record after a probationary period, and in Franklin Park the DUI charge was later dropped.

Authorities said he was also charged with DUI in Wisconsin in 2007.

Some of this didn’t make any sense to me, so I did a little sleuthing myself.  As far as I can tell, the doctor received court supervision in DuPage County for one DUI in 2002, had another in 2004 (Cicero) that may have been reduced to reckless driving, and was convicted of another in DuPage County in 2007.  I suspect that he was found not guilty of the one in Franklin Park.  I could not verify the Wisconsin case.

What that means is that this was the doctor’s sixth DUI arrest.  Of those, he was found guilty of three.  None of the previous Illinois cases were felonies (and from what I know about Wisconsin law, I doubt that the Wisconsin OWI was a felony either).

A fourth DUI in Illinois is a Class 2 Felony, and the sentencing range is anywhere from three to seven years.

So by getting six years, the doctor received a result at the high end of the sentencing range.  This is where his other arrests, even though they did not result in convictions, may have played a factor, as the Judge may have felt that the Doctor was a danger to the public.

Also, my sleuthing disclosed that the Doctor was found guilty after a jury trial.  This is all speculation, but my guess is that faced with a bad case and a minimum sentence of three years, the Doctor chose to take a gamble with a jury.  One problem with that strategy is that Rolling Meadow juries are not traditionally sympathetic to drunk drivers.  Perhaps he thought that they might be impressed by his medical degree, but I guess they weren’t.

Here are the facts of the case, according to the Tribune:

Malik, 64, of Oak Brook, was found guilty in April of aggravated DUI and criminal damage to property stemming from an arrest last July when authorities said he sideswiped a parked car with his Lincoln LS in Franklin Park and then drove onto a lawn in Schiller Park, where he struck a garage, two fences and some landscaping blocks, according to prosecutors and police records.

Here are the highlights of the sentencing, from the article:

The judge was apparently not persuaded to offer leniency to Malik by a several character witnesses who spoke on the doctor’s behalf, including another physician who is also in alcohol recovery, a lawyer and a retired DuPage County judge.

With credit for good behavior and for time served in jail and in treatment, Malik is likely to be released from prison in less than three years, officials said.

For more than three decades, Malik had affiliations with Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, as well as Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist LaGrange Memorial Hospital. Malik stopped seeing patients at those locations by 2014…

“It’s not as though the defendant has not been given a chance or two or three. But this is his seventh time,” Judge James Karahalios, noting that Malik’s salary at his last job at $520,000. “He could have hired a driver.”

Effective? Budweiser Super Bowl ad has Helen Mirren insulting drunk drivers

Budweiser has released a Super Bowl ad featuring British actress Helen Mirren, introducing herself as a “notoriously frank British lady,” insulting drunk drivers.  Then she holds up a frosty Bud and toasts her fellow Bud drinkers.

I don’t get it.

First of all, does Helen Mirren play with the drunk-driving, football watching demographic?  I think not.

Second of all, the insults don’t work.  Most people who drink while intoxicated don’t realize how drunk they are.  They think that they are good enough to make it home.  They don’t see themselves as “utterly useless, oxygen wasting, human form of pollution.”  They see themselves as hardworking parents, good citizens, church members.  Which they are, most of the time.

A much better pitch is to remind people how easy it is for a good person to get arrested, or much worse, seriously injure or kill themselves or someone else when they drink and drive.

What do you think?

How does AA stack up in comparison to therapy?

Pretty well, according to this article.

From the Washington Post Wonkblog:

A watershed in scientist’s views of the value of AA occurred in the 1990s with Project MATCH, the largest study of alcohol dependence treatment ever undertaken.   Two well-validated professionally-developed psychotherapies were evaluated head to head against “twelve-step facilitation counselling.”  This counselling approach adapted AA ideas and goals into a 3-month long psychotherapist-delivered outpatient treatment protocol and also strongly encouraged involvement in community-based AA groups.

AA skeptics were confident that by putting AA up against the best professional psychotherapies in a highly rigorous study, Project MATCH would prove beyond doubt that the 12-steps were mumbo jumbo.  The skeptics were humbled: Twelve-step facilitation was as effective as the best psychotherapies professionals had developed.

Here is the best part:  Alcoholics Anonymous is free, and there are meetings near you, at all hours of the day.  Here is a link to find a meeting in the Chicago area.

Bill to end lifetime license revocations advances through House Committee

The bill that would end the “lifetime license revocation” for anyone convicted of four DUIs has made it through a major hurdle — getting out of House Transportation Committee.

Elise Dismer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports on her blog:

SPRINGFIELD-Legislation giving Illinoisans with four DUI convictions another chance to get back on the road moved through a House committee Wednesday with backing from a prominent anti-drunk-driving organization.

By an 8-3 vote, the House Transportation: Vehicles & Safety Committee signed off on House Bill 4206, which would let four-time drunk-driving offenders apply for a restricted driving permit five years after their last offense—so long as they have logged three years of uninterrupted sobriety and a successful rehabilitation record.

“I believe in giving people a chance,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, the bill’s chief House sponsor. “For someone who’s truly turned their life around, we ought to be giving them opportunities.”

Under existing state law, anyone with four or more drunk-driving convictions faces a lifetime revocation of their driving privileges…

Nekritz’s bill also drew support from a police officer from northwestern Illinois.

Lt. Donnie Pridemore, of the Fulton Police Department, testified in support of the bill, saying he’s seen people—including his own alcoholic brother—turn their lives around.

“For those who have proven they have numerous years of sobriety, who have become productive members of society, and who don’t pose a threat to themselves or other drivers out there, they do deserve a chance to have independence—to drive to work, to drive to meetings—and they’ve earned that privilege,” Pridemore said.

But Nekritz’s opportunity comes with conditions: Those who obtain a restricted driving permit under her legislation must also drive a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device, which would affirm their identity through video technology and prevent them from driving without initially passing a breathalyzer.

Nekritz’s bill bars anyone convicted of a DUI-related crash resulting in a fatality from applying for the permit.

Rita Kreslin, executive director of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, said she supported the legislation in light of the permit eligibility requirements listed in the bill. Her group did not testify Wednesday…

The Tribune looks into Illinois’ Drug Induced Homicide law

Last March I wrote about Illinois’ Drug Induced Homicide law, which makes it a Class X felony if someone gives another person a narcotic that causes death.  My problem was that the law, as written, is extremely overbroad and covers situations such as where a boyfriend and girlfriend share heroin, one dies, and the other gets 15 to 30 years in prison for surviving.

Now Christy Gutowski of the Chicago Tribune has written an lengthy piece about this law, which can be found here.  In it, she quotes me, which of course makes her brilliant.

So please take a look at it.

The article is timely as it is appearing a day after the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who apparently died of a heroin overdose.  It has been reported that Hoffman had a drug problem when he was younger, and had gone 23 years of being clean and sober until a relapse one or two years ago.  Even then, he went through treatment and cleaned up, only to relapse again.  Here was a man who had been clean and sober for over two decades, had the support of friends and family and the resources to get the best possible drug treatment, yet he could not stay away from heroin.  It is a horribly addicting drug.  So why should we prosecute the fellow junkie who shared the needle?  Isn’t he a victim too?



A Mother shares the story of her daughter who OD from heroin

moakIs there ever a good heroin story?  I don’t think so.

This is an excerpt from Gregory Pratt’s story in the Chicago Tribune.  Read the whole story by clicking the link.

By this time in September, Jackie Olson had hoped her daughter Kaitlyn Moak would be settling into her second year at Illinois State, weathering the usual ups and downs of college life away from home.

In the months before her death from a heroin overdose in June 2012, the New Lenox teen seemed full of plans, talking with friends and family about the year ahead.

But the 18-year-old former choir member at Providence Catholic High School became another casualty of heroin in the suburbs, dying of an overdose just weeks after graduating from the New Lenox school.

“A lot of people think it would never happen to them,” said Olson, who hopes her daughter’s story might help others avoid the drug. “But you’d be surprised who it happens to.”…

Up until the last months of her life, Moak seemed an unlikely victim of heroin’s ravages, said Olson, describing her daughter as a regular, “dorky” teen.

Providence choir director Stacy Eckert remembers Moak as a bright, hardworking student with a great sense of humor. And former classmate Cassidy Glenn recalls Moak volunteering to carry her books when she tore her ACL during a basketball game their junior year…

During the teen’s senior year, close friend Amy Gauger said she noticed changes. Moak began hanging with a new crowd and Gauger said she heard that Moak had tried hard drugs. When she confronted her, Moak said she had everything under control…

In New Lenox’s tight-knit group of young heroin users, Moak met and became friends with another user.

The friend, who asked not to be named, said that the two did not feel they had an addiction and even had “sober Sundays,” when they would play cards, visit the zoo or watch TV.

“I never saw it as a problem just because, at the time, we were not injecting it. We were snorting it. We were going to school during the week and only using on the weekends.

“Neither of us pawned anything,” the friend said, “like your typical addict.”

In the months before Moak’s death, Olson said she regularly drug tested her daughter and searched her belongings, but Moak kept turning up clean. The teen visited colleges and registered at Illinois State, Olson said, while showing up to school every morning and working her job at Subway…

On the night Moak returned home, she traveled to Chicago with a couple of friends and bought heroin, according to police records.

The group met up with a drug dealer off 95th and Halsted streets in Chicago, police said, where Moak paid $90 for some bags of what the teens called “good heroin.” Moak overdosed and died on June 22…

To this day, Olson still struggles with the grief of losing her child, who would have been 19 if she were alive. In the end, Olson said, she thinks her daughter was naive about the drug’s danger and didn’t understand what she was getting herself into.

“She just wanted to get high,” Olson said. “She never thought she would die.”

A Message from Beyond the Grave

elizabeth sleasmanToday, I read the obituary of Elizabeth Sleasman.  What was unique about it is that she wrote most of it herself.

You can click on the link, or read the entirety of her message below (I will assume that she would have wished to see this re-posted as much as possible):

Message from Sue:

I ask that EVERY parent and grandparent show this to their teens, even if they are perfect children. I was a perfect daughter, and my parents never knew I was using and drinking for at least the first five years (age 12 to 17), then only suspected it until the last ten years of my life when I couldn’t hide it any more.

Message to the teens: If you haven’t started – don’t. If you have, quit NOW. Your drinking/drug using friends are not really friends, they will steal from you, use you, and will do anything to get another “fix” – just like me. What starts out as fun for the first year or so, ends up to be a horrible, lonely life. During the last ten years, I never knew from one day to the next where I was going to be, I ate out of garbage cans, begged, and stole. I slept in bushes, doorways, abandoned vehicles, and nearly froze to death in the winter. Most of the time I was high or coming down, and much of that time, did not know what I was saying or doing – I could remember very little of what happened the night before. While using, I thought I was invincible and nothing could ever happen to me – after all, I was the “safest” user out there. I had a little girl who, because of my drinking and drugging was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and other very serious problems. I did not believe this, I believed she was perfect and only a little slow; and of course, it was not my fault – she will need specialized care for the rest of her life – again, not my fault, or so I thought.

You will become a thief and a liar, next you will lose your family, your “real” friends, and eventually your life. I started with Marijuana, and alcohol. It did not take very long for me to be so hooked on hard drugs that I could not have quit if I wanted to. Some of my closest “friends” overdosed and died; I did not quit. The light of my life, my daughter, was taken away – even then, I could not quit.

I entered the Methadone treatment and stopped using, but unfortunately my drinking habit kept on and I started using again. More recently I was admitted to the hospital because I was vomiting blood – my stomach was raw and the lining split because of crystal meth and alcohol. The doctors glued it together, and tried to get me to go to treatment – I said I would do it myself. I have quit now, but I am dead; don’t wait as long as I did, give your life another chance.

Thanks to attorney Scott Gordon for alerting me to this obituary.

Trying something new: DUI Treatment Court

The front cover of today’s Chicago Tribune had a story about a DUI treatment court in Peoria.  The program is for people who have been charged with a second or third DUI.  They are required to wear a SCRAM bracelet or go for alcohol testing twice a day.

The SCRAM bracelet, known in the industry as Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor or in slang as the “Lindsay Lohan bracelet,” is a plastic device about the size of a cigarette pack strapped above the ankle of a repeat drunken driver. Every half-hour, SCRAM screens for alcohol in the wearer’s perspiration.

The bracelet is the central component of a court program that begins when a motorist is arrested for DUI in Peoria County and is screened for alcohol addiction tendencies. If those are evident or if a motorist has been convicted of a second or third DUI, they move to DUI treatment court.

For a year to 18 months, an offender agrees to abstain from alcohol and drugs; wear the SCRAM device and/or undergo rigorous, random alcohol and drug testing; and attend treatment sessions and therapy groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

If the participant drinks alcohol, ingests drugs or misses treatment or therapy sessions, he or she often pays with a stint in jail. If participants follow the regimen, they are complimented along the way — much like Kelley’s avuncular exchange with Duncan, who is close to finishing the program successfully.

The most powerful aspect of the DUI treatment court experience was hearing other people’s accounts of beating their alcohol and drug habits, Duncan said.

“To hear other people who opened up, saying that they need help and things like that,” Duncan said, “it made me think if they can be honest with themselves, why can’t I?”

An outgrowth of the drug treatment court model started in the late 1980s in Florida, the first DUI court was created in 1994 near Las Cruces, N.M. Peoria County established its court around 2005, after Kelley’s predecessor, Rebecca Steenrod, attended a conference where experts noted that the drug court protocol worked for DUI cases and obtained a state grant to get the court started.

As of June 2012, there were 208 courts dedicated exclusively to DUI treatment, the National Center for DWI Courts says. Research suggests they work.

An Arizona study from the late 1990s to the early 2000s showed that 3.6 percent of DUI treatment court “graduates” had gotten arrested for DUI two years after completing the program, compared with 5.4 percent of standard probation graduates. A NHTSA multiyear study of DUI treatment courts in Georgia found that “graduates” had a recidivism rate 38 to 65 percent lower than offenders in traditional programs, and a 2007 Michigan study concluded that DUI courts there had a significant effect in reducing recidivism, drug and alcohol use and criminal justice costs.

But apart from the salaries of the judge and a probation officer, funding for Peoria County’s DUI court largely hinges on participants’ ability to pay for services, and that presents problems. Bracelets are available to those who can pay $5 to $22 per day for one, which often leaves indigent hard-core drunken drivers with no choice but jail. Treatment also can be difficult to obtain for those unable to pay.

I have previously endorsed this idea before (click here to read), even though I am sure that many of my clients would vehemently object to being placed in such a court and being required to wear a SCRAM bracelet or have to report to a probation office twice a day to take a breath or urine test.  Certainly, doing so is embarrassing, inconvenient and expensive.  And I am concerned that DUI treatment court might be pushed on people who really don’t need it.

But I think a DUI treatment court is a good idea because a DUI arrest is not so much a crime as much as it is a symptom of a person’s alcohol abuse or dependency.

For example, I have represented people who have gone through a bad period and picked up multiple DUIs in a short period of time.  This can mean that they can end up as a convicted felon and barred from ever getting a license again, even if they can later prove years or decades of sobriety.

So I am all for a different approach, one that treats repeat drunk drivers not as hardened criminals, but as people with an addiction that has impaired their ability to control their actions, but with help, can regain control of their life and become productive citizens. But this can’t happen so long as we permanently mark them with a “scarlet letter” that keeps them from being able to legally drive, work, support their families and develop positive self-esteem.

I think it would be better to pull these people out of the criminal system and instead give them an intensive alcohol and drug use treatment program with the possibility of avoiding a criminal record or permanent license revocation.

What do you think?


Should you enter treatment while your DUI case is still pending?

Recently, on the avvo.com website, someone who has been charged with a fourth DUI asked whether he should enter treatment now, or wait until after he has been sentenced.  My simple response was “Do the treatment now — it is not guaranteed to help, but it might. Plus, it might help turn around your life.”

Not coincidentally came the news that two recent high profile Lake County defendants, both of whom were involved in fatal crashes, have entered into treatment — Carly Rousso (the Highland Park teen who allegedly was “huffing” shortly before crashing and killing a 5 year old) and Jeremy Betancourt (the Antioch teen who is alleged to have been drag racing prior to a fatal crash).

There are many reasons why a person should enter treatment while their case is still pending — particularly when their history suggests alcohol or drug dependency.

By entering treatment, the person is showing the court that he or she is attempting to do something about his or her problem, instead of continuing to be the problem.  Why should a judge be lenient to someone who remains in denial about an alcohol or drug problem, and remains a high risk to repeat the offense?

In addition, life skills are more important than a court case.  I have lost clients and a family member to alcohol and drugs.  Treatment might have saved them, but they were unwilling.  Often, it takes the threat of jail to get someone to enter treatment.

Treatment is not necessary for alcoholics.  Some people are in a lesser category called “alcohol and drug abuse” and have a very unhealthy concept of what is a reasonable use.  Treatment can be very helpful in recognizing these problems and providing tools to quit or drink responsibly in the future.

But for alcoholics or drug addicts, treatment is a necessary first step in the road to recovery.  Alcohol or drug addiction is permanent.  It does not go away, even if a person becomes abstinent.  It just remains in remission. Treatment can be helpful in batting away defense mechanisms that prevent a person from honestly assessing the extent of his or her problem.

So yes, if someone is facing a serious charge, or has multiple arrests or otherwise has shown signs of reckless drinking or drug use, I strongly recommend getting into treatment sooner rather than later.