Widow and mother of three gets 7 years for DUI crash that killed husband

From the Peoria Pantagraph:

An East Peoria woman was sentenced to seven years in prison Wednesday for aggravated driving under the influence related to a single-vehicle crash that killed her husband.

Juanita Webster, 38, sobbed loudly after Judge William Yoder imposed the sentence.

Webster was behind the wheel on June 16, 2017, when she lost control of the vehicle in which Andre Webster was a passenger. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on Interstate 55 north of Bloomington.

In his decision to impose a prison sentence, Yoder cited Webster’s criminal history that included convictions for drunken driving in 2012 and domestic battery of her husband in 2016.

Yoder said he found no extraordinary circumstances involved in the crash that would allow him to consider probation over prison as required by state law.

Defense lawyer Matthew Koetters argued that the testimony from Webster’s relatives, including her three children, illustrated the hardship they have suffered since their mother’s incarceration. The defendant’s two sons, ages 18 and 13, and daughter, now 12, said they needed their mother at home.

The children, who exchanged emotional goodbyes with their mother after the hearing, are living with a disabled grandfather and a family friend near Chicago.

In her statement to the judge, Webster’s words were nearly drowned out by her sobs.

“I’m suffering every day. I lost my husband I’m still in love with. … I don’t have anyone to take care of my kids, judge,” said Webster.

Read the entire story here:  https://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/driver-sentenced-to-years-in-dui-crash-that-killed-her/article_28557471-8087-5605-8260-7edc5a1331e4.html

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.”

“I do not deserve to be breathing the same air as all of you,” says fatal DUI crash defendant at sentencing

From the Chicago Tribune, story by Steve Schmadeke:

The mother of a promising University of Chicago Law School student sobbed Thursday as she talked in a Cook County courtroom about how a crash caused by a man driving the wrong way on Lake Shore Drive while drunk had forever changed two families’ lives.

Judith Wasil’s son, Michael, 24, suffered traumatic brain injuries, while his friend Laura Anne LaPlante, 26, also a U. of C. law student, was killed. Both were three weeks from graduation from the prestigious school.

“Certain truths that I had always taken to be self-evident were instantly shattered,” said Wasil, whose son did not attend the hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. “We were no longer a normal, happy family. My son was lying in a hospital bed hooked up to machines and fighting for his life. My family had suffered one of the worst tragedies a family can experience.”

The defendant, Erik Johnson, sat with slumped shoulders looking shellshocked as Wasil spoke. He briefly appeared to lose his composure and fight back tears as Assistant State’s Attorney Geraldine D’Souza read a statement from LaPlante’s parents wishing Johnson’s family well…

Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated DUI and was sentenced to eight years in prison as part of a deal worked out with the approval of both victims’ families. He must serve a minimum of nearly six years in prison.Johnson, at the time of the crash a recent Loyola University graduate who had been out drinking with co-workers, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.195 percent, about 2 1/2 times the legal limit.

His SUV, being driven south in the northbound lanes on a twisting curve of Lake Shore Drive near Navy Pier, smashed into a taxi carrying LaPlante and Wasil shortly before 2 a.m. in early May 2014. The impact knocked both into the taxi’s windshield. The driver, the only one wearing a seat belt, suffered a broken elbow.

Calling it “a heart-wrenching tragedy of the worst kind,” Wasil’s mother said the massive injuries at first left her son unable to swallow, eat, drink, walk, talk, read or write. He has recovered physically except for a pronounced limp, she told Judge William Lacy, but his brain injury “continues to be problematic” and is “essentially a life sentence.”

Wasil has difficulty even forming sentences, according to an attorney for the family…

Moments before the judge handed down the sentence, Johnson, now 25, apologized for his actions.

“I do not deserve to be breathing the same air as all of you,” Johnson told the courtroom. “I wish this senseless act had killed me alone because of my own mistake.

“I was brought up in a moral and ethical household where we were taught to respect life and a person’s free will,” he said. “No one in my family ever committed a crime, no one in my family ever hurt anyone. But in one night I lost complete control over everything I’ve ever been taught and everything I’ve ever believed myself.

“I have single-handedly taken away the life of a young woman already great but destined for greater things,” Johnson said. “I am devastated to think of what I have taken from you.”

Johnson, who vowed to work to prevent drunken driving after his release from prison, kept his eyes downcast as a deputy sheriff led him from the courtroom.

Read the full story here:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-lake-shore-drive-crash-law-students-met-20160204-story.html

22 year old woman charged with homicide after wrong-way DUI accident that killed off-duty police officer

saralopezA young woman is facing reckless homicide and aggravated DUI charges after a wrong-way accident on I-294 that took the life of a 27 year old off-duty Chicago Ridge Police Officer and former Marine.

From Fox 32:

A woman has been charged with DUI after causing a wrong-way crash last month that killed an off-duty Chicago Ridge police officer on the Tri-State Tollway near west suburban Oak Brook, police announced Friday.

Sara Lopez, 22, of Bristol, faces charges of reckless homicide and aggravated DUI involving death, according to Illinois State Police.

About 3:45 a.m. Sept. 13, Lopez was driving a Toyota Camry heading south in the northbound lanes of I-294 near Cermak Road when her car struck a Dodge Neon that was traveling in the correct direction, police said. The Camry struck the Dodge head on, causing the Camry to spin and then strike a Chevrolet that was also traveling in the correct direction.

Steven Andrew Smith, a 27-year-old off-duty Chicago Ridge police officer, was in the passenger seat of the Dodge and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy ruled his death an accident.

Lopez and the driver of the Dodge were both taken to Elmhurst Memorial Hospital non-life-threatening injuries, police said. The driver of the Chevrolet wasn’t hurt.

Smith, a Chicago Ridge resident, began as a part-time officer in the southwest suburb in 2010 before completing police academy and earning full-time status in February this year, according to Chicago Ridge police Chief Robert D. Pyznarski.

Smith, who joined the Marine Corps in 2009 and was still a reserve, is survived by his parents and brother, Pyznarski said.

“He was an excellent police officer and a friend to all of us here. We lost a big part of our family,” Pyznarski said.

Lopez was scheduled for a bond hearing Saturday.

Off-Duty Chicago Police Officer charged in serious DUI accident

A Chicago Police Officer, who was allegedly driving while intoxicated when he struck and critically injuring a 29 year old woman on Belmont Avenue has been charged with aggravated DUI causing great bodily harm or death.  You may recall that I criticized the Police Department three weeks ago for not releasing the officer’s name, like they do with every other suspect.

From the Chicago Tribune (Jeremy Gorner reporting):

A Chicago police officer has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after he hit a woman in her 20s as she crossed a Northwest Side street last month, authorities said.

Erin Mowry, 40, of the Northwest Side, was off-duty at the time of the accident. He is charged with aggravated DUI with great bodily harm, a felony, according to a Cook County state’s attorney’s office spokeswoman.

He was ticketed July 18, receiving two DUI citations and a failure to exercise due care citation, according to traffic court records. His bond on those tickets was set at $3,000, according to court records.

He is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing Thursday afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

The crash happened about 1:20 a.m. July 18 in the Belmont Heights neighborhood, said Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Mowry was off-duty and driving west in a 1997 Mercedes in the 7500 block of West Belmont Avenue when he hit a woman in her 20s as she crossed the street, Guglielmi said.

The woman was critically injured and taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood for treatment, he said.

Read the full story here:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-police-officer-charged-with-dui-20150805-story.html

Well-known Chicago DJ, DJ Lego, charged with aggravated DUI involving death of female passenger

From the Chicago Tribune:

A ongtime Chicago DJ was drunk and driving more than 90 mph when he lost control of his black Lexus on Lake Shore Drive and flipped over on a frozen lagoon in Lincoln Park, killing the woman riding with him, prosecutors and police said.

Rafael Rodriguez, 42, of the 3900 block of North Ashland Avenue, is charged with aggravated driving under the influence resulting in an accident causing death, a felony, according to police. He’s also charged with driving without a license and a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, police said. Rodriguez’s blood alcohol content was 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08, Assistant State’s Attorney Akash Vyas said.

Rodriguez was ordered held on $1 million bail Wednesday.

Known as DJ Lego, Rodriguez has been a well-known part of the Chicago house music and club scene for more than two decades, according to friends and public records. Rodriguez’s driving record shows numerous moving violations and other traffic citations, including for driving without a valid license.

Witnesses saw Rodriguez weaving in and out of traffic at 90 mph when he crashed through a guardrail while driving south in the 2200 block of North Lake Shore Drive about 1:40 a.m. Monday, according to police and prosecutors. Rodriguez’s Lexus hit a tree, skidded across the frozen Lincoln Park rowing lagoon south of Diversey Harbor, then hit the lagoon’s retaining wall and flipped over on the ice, Vyas said.

Claudia Beruben, 37, who was riding with Rodriguez, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she later died, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Rodriguez smelled of alcohol when fire crews took him from the driver’s seat of the car, Vyas said.

Rodriguez was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in serious condition. He remained hospitalized as of Tuesday, being treated for injuries including fractured vertebrae and hand injuries, and no date had been set for him to appear in court.

Vyas said Rodriguez had six violations of speeding laws in the past five years and his license had been revoked…

Beruben, of south suburban Calumet Park, was a single mother who leaves behind a 3-year-old daughter, according to family and friends…

Friends have set up a foundation for Claudia’s daughter through the GiveForward website under the heading “Hopes & Dreams for Claudia Beruben’s daughter.”

On the bright side, driver teaches Eisenhower Jr High students a striking lesson about DUI

Jonathan Carlos Hernandez has been charged with aggravated DUI and aggravated fleeing and eluding after he speed off during a traffic stop, lost control of his car and crashed in Eisenhower Junior High School in Hoffman Estates.  His Toyota Scion crashed through the school’s gymnasium.  Fortunately, all this happened on Saturday after midnight, so no one was in the school and no one was hurt.