URBANA — A Champaign County judge Thursday declared that a Champaign man who nearly killed a baby in a drunken driving crash "just doesn't get it," and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
"He is unable to admit he did anything wrong," Judge Chase Leonhard said of Montrell Davis.
In January, a jury convicted the 22-year-old who last lived in the 1200 block of North McKinley Avenue, Champaign, of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and obstructing justice for lying to the police about who was driving the car on Feb. 18, 2011.
Davis' girlfriend, Calvalear Washington, 22, also of the 1200 block of North McKinley Avenue, Champaign, is currently serving a year of conditional discharge after pleading guilty in September to obstructing justice. She admitted she also lied to Champaign police, telling them that she was driving the rental car on Clark Street that crashed into a southbound car on South State Street about 8 p.m. that Friday.
The driver of the southbound Toyota Prius was Zheng "Richard" Ni, 36, of Champaign. His wife, Xaidong Ni, 32, and their son, Ercheng Ni, then 1, were in the back seat and were seriously injured.
Assistant State's Attorney Chris Kanis sought a sentence near the maximum of 12 years on the DUI and six years on the obstructing justice for Davis, who had prior convictions for unlawful use of weapons, criminal trespass to residence and criminal trespass.
Davis' attorney, Jim Dedman of Urbana, asked for a community-based sentence but urged the judge to consider boot camp for Davis if he was unwilling to sentence him to probation.
Dedman noted that not only was Ercheng Ni a victim but so is Davis' child, who was born while he's been in jail for more than a year. Washington was 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time of the crash.
"She's about to talk and take her first steps and he's never seen her," said Dedman.
Speaking briefly to the judge, Davis said he wanted to apologize and wanted to be able to see his daughter.
Leonhard called the case "remarkable" in many respects, mostly because of the serious injury to Ercheng Ni, now 2. He was hospitalized about two months after the crash and may suffer long-term developmental delays from his injuries, which included bleeding in the brain, broken ribs, bruised organs, broken teeth and punctured lungs. He continues to receive therapy.
"The event on State Street is profoundly tragic and by its very nature is something that did not have to happen and would not have happened if Mr. Davis had exercised even a trace element of maturity," Leonhard said.
In a victim impact statement to the judge, Xaidong Ni said she had no memory of what happened and still cannot identify smells or tastes correctly due to the severe concussion she suffered.
Her husband, Richard Ni, was not seriously hurt.
Leonhard said the family was left with $250,000 in medical bills "all due to the perniciously witless" conduct of Davis.
They were headed home after shopping when a Dodge Avenger going east on Clark slammed into the passenger side of their Prius. The impact of the collision sent the Prius into a yard on the southeast corner of the intersection. The Avenger, with heavy front-end damage, spun around and came to rest further east on Clark Street after it had hit two parked cars.
Davis was not seriously injured but Washington was, sustaining facial injuries and a large cut to her left knee.
Davis and Washington both maintained that Washington was driving despite what Leonhard called "overwhelming circumstantial evidence" to the contrary.
Tests done on Davis showed his blood-alcohol content was 0.188 percent, more than twice the limit for a motorist in Illinois to be presumed intoxicated. There were also cannabis byproducts in his system.
Under truth-in-sentencing, he will have to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence but was given credit for 398 days already served. Leonhard denied Davis' request to be released from jail before he goes to prison so he could see his daughter.