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Illinois repeat offender to serve 14-year term for DUI crash

A defendant recently apologized to a court in southern Illinois. The 44-year-old man said he hoped victims and their families could forgive him for causing a fatal motorcycle accident. The convicted man did not address the history of DUI offenses that made him a repeat negligent driver.

A Perry County court sentenced the defendant to the maximum prison term for aggravated DUI. The judge feared any shorter term than 14 years might not prevent the "public safety threat" from drinking and driving in the future. The Tennessee-born defendant must also pay fines and restitution totaling $52,000.

The crash happened near Tamaroa a little over a year ago when a band of motorcyclists was riding along Route 51. The defendant was operating a pickup truck that crashed into the group, killing a 57-year-old Pinckneyville woman and injuring nine other riders.

One of the motorcyclists -- married 36 years to the woman who died -- said the pickup driver ignored the pain and agony of the victims. The husband told the court the defendant focused instead on salvaging beer cans strewn around the pickup.

The defendant pleaded guilty to four aggravated DUI counts. The charges were reduced to a single count by the time the sentence was issued.

The restitution payment of $42,000 would not affect the husband's ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Restitution and compensation are similar in that both awards benefit victims or victims' beneficiaries. The amounts are calculated differently. Compensation is based on a plaintiff's financial losses, while restitution is figured according to a defendant's unfair gain.

A wrongful death lawsuit may include requests for damages that restitution would not cover. The victim's pain and suffering from the time of injury until death is determined under a survival action. Non-economic damages experienced by the plaintiff -- grief or loss of society -- are considered separately within the same wrongful death case.

Source:  wsiltv.com, "Harris Sentenced to 14 Years for Deadly Crash" Stephanie Tyrpak, May. 03, 2013

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